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

Happy returns for a splendid spirit

Getting into the spirit of things: Mrs. Bradman (Kathleen Othen), Charles (John Horton), Madame Arcati (Helen Lammas), Ruth (Katherine Jones) and Dr. Bradman (Keith Barrell) in the séance scene from Blithe Spirit.

Blithe Spirit

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


IF it is later than you expect when you leave the theatre, there are two possible reasons. 

One is that the seven scenes are separated by surprisingly lengthy longueurs. The other is that Madame Arcati is a fiesta of expansive gestures in her colourful kaftan, and – amusing though they are – sometimes they do go on a bit. 

Blithe Spirit is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Director Keith Thompson – who has also designed a set that is certainly impressive enough for this landmark occasion – has a talented company at his disposal.  

John Horton, splendidly audible, is the long-suffering Charles Condomine, haunted by his first wife, who died seven years ago, and intermittently snapped at by his second. He makes a reliable anchor for the sepulchral goings-on that are the essence of Noel Coward's classic comedy. 

Audibility, unfortunately, is harder to come by in Katherine Jones's account of his second wife, Ruth.

Her diction, like her costumes, is excellent, but she needs to launch her larynx more vigorously in sharing it with us. Nevertheless, she comes with panache to her responsibilities – which frequently involve manning the ramparts in lively self-defence against the depredations of first wife Elvira.

Elvira (Julie Nunn) begins her haunting of Charles Condomine (John Horton) 

Julie Nunn is Elvira, and she is a joy. She is eternal surprise with a big grin; a toothy charmer revelling in a role that puts mischief at her fingertips. 

Helen Lammas is Madame Arcati, a half-pint firework display with a plummy squeak that is not always easy to interpret; mistress of the irrefutable flourish; unapologetically over the top.

I think she would have been even more amusing in smaller doses. 

Abigail Lister is Edith, the maid who arrives at a gallop but slows down without apparent difficulty before too long. Keith Barrell and Kathleen Othen are the family friends who turn up early on and are to be congratulated on making their escape before the pace becomes too hectic. 

The script includes a reference to the fire which indicates that it should have been showing signs of life, but it, too, has taken its leave. It has missed a happy evening. To 5-11-11

John Slim 

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