Blithe Spirit @ The New Theatre by Venetia Hulse

The standard was set for Lawrence Bolton’s production as soon as you walked into the New Theatre; the front of house was absolutely brilliant, as musicians played amongst the decoration of a fortune-teller’s tent. Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward sees Charles Condomine, a writer, hosting a séance night for the purpose of his new book with an eccentric local medium, Madame Arcati. The evening results in the return of the writer’s late wife, Elvira, much to the dismay of the current Mrs Condomine. Charles is the only one who can see or hear Elvira, and so the farcical thread ensues.

Originally staged in 1941, Blithe Spirit has recently made a comeback with performances on Broadway and in the Nottingham Playhouse and I am glad that New Theatre has undertaken this ambitious task as well. This is not an easy play to produce, especially because it relies on the audience believing that some of the characters are seen by Charles alone, and Lawrence Bolton, although a first time director for the New Theatre, has proved himself very talented. There were some outstanding performances from the cast, Hugh Williams was brilliant as the lead, and Flo Hapgood’s portrayal of Elvira was quite exceptional and proved vital to much of the comedy.
Overall it was thoroughly enjoyable. My only criticisms would be that some of the upper class accents did become a bit shrill in certain scenes; something which relaxed as the play developed. A few of the lines at the beginning of the play were a little rushed, and it seemed a shame to lose part of the witty dialogue. It was nevertheless incredibly funny and not a single member of the audience failed to laugh throughout. The final scene is fantastic; it is a wonderful ending to a good production. Credit must be duly given to the technical team’s achievements.

Venetia Hulse

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