Blithe Spirit ★★★ Harold Pinter Theatre | Sep 16 - Nov 6, 2021


Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward's 1941 "light comedy about death" wasn't quite as 'light' as it could have been in Richard Eyre's production which brought only a smattering of real laughs. It looked stunning in Anthony Ward's towering country house and Geoffrey Streatfeild and Lisa Dillon, as hosts Charles and Ruth, worked hard to create the ambiance. However, the build up to the arrival of Madame Arcati, a local medium who has been invited to give a séance, was dulled somewhat – her entrance being largely obscured behind a huge sofa. The presence of Jennifer Saunders as Madame Arcati is, of course, the raison d'être for this revival. Unfortunately, her wig, makeup and costumes made her look somewhat like a bag lady, and frequently sounding breathless with arms windmilling about, this Madame Arcati left us missing the charming eccentric created by Margaret Rutherford or Angela Lansbury. In the other star role, Madeleine Mantock as Elvira, ghost of Charles' deceased wife, faced all the challenges of a screen actor cast in a leading role on stage. Of course, there were some funny moments; Coward wrote plenty of sharp and witty lines but many went almost unnoticed. Lengthy passages, especially towards the end of the play, seemed to sag. Knowing and loving the play, we felt that, while remaining pleasantly amusing, these “profuse strains of unpremeditated art” were not quite as blithe as Coward intended.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Nobby Clark

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