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

A delight to lift the spirits

Estate agent Mark Webster (Jason Moseley) needs a glass of urgent medicine while the roguish and invisible ghostly Jack (Ian Mason) has fun with the Christmas tree decorations and budding author Simon (Steve Willis) does not hide his failure to understand. 

Spirit Level

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


I SUSPECT that the title stems from an author's wish to have some sort of play on words – but unless Pam Valentine meant that she had given us not one spirit but two, and that they were equal in their impishness, there is also room for suspicion that she was just looking for a title that intrigued without actually meaning anything.

Fortunately, neither the not-yet-published play nor the production – believed to be the first in Britain – allows itself to be hung up on such considerations. Under Pauline Lowe's direction, we are presented with a man and wife who were both drowned at sea and who have not allowed such a trifling misfortune to impair their ghostly good humour.

It's a sort of Blithe Spirit twice over – a happy double haunting that helps aspiring author Simon Willis in his search for words and plots, and which gives the rest of us a goodly quota of appreciative chuckles.

True, I would have liked to see the players enjoying more elbow-room than is available to this studio production, but they have adapted well to the inevitable constraints with which they have been presented.

The action takes place in the country cottage in which the late author Jack Cameron did his writing, and where he and his wife are now obliged to remain because he is an atheist and is not allowed into heaven. In other words, it is a daft delight.

Ian Mason is Cameron, an impish former citizen who is not above putting bubble bath into a bugle or inducing wide-eyed panic in an estate agent by taking apparently unsupported baubles from a box and hanging them on the Christmas tree –which just happens to be topped by a wingless cross-eyed angel.

He offers an excellent exercise in other-worldly naughtiness – but when he does that bit of whispering it would help if he shielded his mouth with his left hand, rather than his right, so that the audience could see him forming the words.

But his are words that offer him many good moments. My favourite line emerged as, “If I was alive I'd go for a check-up.”

Sue Smith is his late wife Susie – a chirruping, splendidly po-faced creation, prone to over-worry about the young woman who is expecting a baby. Steve Willis is father-to-be Simon Willis – actor and character sharing the same initials and the same surname, which must be some sort of first. He is an unapologetic Cameron fan, a wannabe author in his own right and a patently likable citizen.

Poppy Cooksey-Heyfron is his wife, Flic – a happy and attractive contribution to the pleasingly improbable action – and Sue Hawkins scores as Flic's mother, three years a widow and unkindly referred to as the Beast of Basingstoke, with her big moment admirably achieved when she falls with dramatic decisiveness out of a chair.

Brenda Williams arrives as the guardian angel, sturdily tweeded with impeccable diction and dark brown lisle stockings. Jason Moseley is the estate agent, prone to eyes that pop and a throat that gurgles in the face of ghostly good humour.

And it is all a joy, with lots of splendid lines in a script that emerges with high-speed precision. Great stuff! To 27.08.11.

John Slim

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