Thursday, 20 March 2014

'Blithe Spirit' Gielgud Theatre ****

I must advocate that I have an immense admiration for the legendary Noel Coward’s 1941 play ‘Blithe Spirit’ as I played Dr Bradman in an A-level production of this over two years ago. ‘Blithe Spirit’ is based around the idea of the paranormal, when séances actually becomes reality as the ghost of man's first wife is brought back to life somewhat. The play is set in rural Kent, where we have introduced to slightly pretentious writer Charles Condomine, who is researching original ideas based on supernatural experiences, decides to hold a gathering of friends and his second wife, the incredibly vulgar Ruth to analyse what goes on. Of course the main attraction for this revival is the return of internationally regarded actress, Dame Angela Lansbury as the quirky Medium, Madame Arcati and at 88 years old she exceptionally conveys this character with such precision. We become fixated by her persona on the exact stage that launched her own mother's career. Within the first act, I have found the narrative to be a little bit dull and rather dissatisfying, however once Lansbury enters the set for the first time the entire audience applauded and the play finally releases its charismatic charm. We make it our decision whether we believe that the séance is realistic or a falsity. On the other hand, when it does have a successful outcome, we become engrossed and enthralled by the circumstances that are set to follow. I must admit that the dialogue is incredibly upper-class England and it does still engage contemporary audiences and tourists alike, which makes it and incredible production indeed. The performances by the rather small company are outstanding. Charles Edwards is excellent as the writer looking investigating the world of the unseen, Charles Condomine. Janie Dee plays Charles' second wife, Ruth with an intense surge of brilliance, Jemima Rooper is captivating as the ghost of Charles first wife, Elvira. Simon Jones and Serena Evans provide exceptional performances as the Condomine’s guests, Dr and Mrs Bradman. Even for such a minor role I thought Patsy Ferran is comedy gold as the parlour maid, Edith. The productions' director, Michael Blakemore has done a phenomenal job in maintaining Coward’s extremely detailed stage directions as well as making his own creative decisions and constructing the Kentish landscape to a good standard of finish. Simon Higlett's design is sublime as he has been able to capture a traditional upper class Kent home with such precision and ease. I was definitely immersed with the whole experience especially in Lansbury's presence and the whole production is worth a visit to the Gielgud Theatre. 

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