Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Blithe Spirit

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Congratulations go to The Nonentities Society who have reached their 80th year of existence. To celebrate their landmark birthday, this seasons offerings have been chosen from across the decades, starting here with a play first performed back in 1941, Noel Cowards Blithe Spirit.

This comic tale of Ghosts and Exorcism may have been something of risk in that Coward wrote Blithe Spirit during the Second World War.

At a time when tragic loss would have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds this mad cap comedy successfully racked up 1,997 performances in the West End. It is probably the first play to feature a ghost as a comical interactive character and no doubt was instrumental over the years contributing to derivatives of the format like Randall and Hopkirk.

Cowards stiff upper lip is present in every line and sentimental emotion is banished for the sake of comedy. Charles Condomine is a novelist and has remarried after his first wife has passed away some years before, due to a heart attack.

One evening in the hope of gaining insight to the spirit world for a new book, he invites the eccentric Madame Arcati, a local medium, to dine with his new wife Ruth and two of their friends, the Bradmans. Later that night they perform a séance and have the accidental misfortune to conjure up the spirit of Charles first wife Elvira who can only be seen and heard by him.

cast of Blithe Spirit

The cast in rehearsal

Madame Arcati is played by Judy Basset and was a joy to watch as the outrageous medium and although her character is not central to the scheme of things she makes the role a pivotal one in this performance. She certainly displayed a great deal of energy and seemed possessed herself by a much younger spirit as she darted and skipped about with her wild exuberance, pinching handfuls of air to smell the presence of other worldly beings.

Faultless in his delivery was Stuart Wishart as Charles who expertly negotiated Cowards sarcastic and flippant text with a fine degree of middle class plum in his voice. Often keeping the production on course when things went slightly adrift, his comic timing was sharp and effective.

His second wife Ruth played by Sinead Maffei descends into frustration as her husband’s random conversations with the invisible Elvira take over his everyday routine and after a slightly shaky start she settled into the role nicely.

The ghostly presence of Elvira was beautifully conjured up by Laurie Pollitt. Looking a lot like Lady Gaga at bedtime, with platinum locks and black low lights she swoons about in a flimsy nightdress re enticing her former husband from the other side.

In support was Amy Cooper as the hapless maid Edith who brought out a few laughs with her serving antics. Also adding the voices of sanity to the production is Doctor Bradman and his wife played by Martin Salter and Katy Ball who add just the right amount of commonsense to the mix.

Coward's sharp dialogue is played out on a very sharp set designed and created by Keith Higgins and Mikes Lawrence complete with its final ghostly effects. With the addition of some effective lighting by Patrick Bentley, the spooky séance scenes were chilling enough to add an air of real discomfort.

Blithe Spirit is an evening of madcap ghostly fun setting just the right seasonal mood as we head into autumn and the Halloween month. When the batty Madame Arcati calls up her guide and controller from the spirit world and asks `is there anyone there ‘she could have answered a clear `yes` as it was a full house on the night and deservedly so. To 16-09-17.

Jeff Grant


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