Blithe Spirit is one of my favourite comedies by one of my equally favourite writers, that master of the silken text, Noel Coward. Back in 1941 when it was first published, he described it as ‘An improbable farce in three Acts’.
It was a very different way of life back then with even the middle classes having servants in black frocks and white headbands who did the cooking and the cleaning whilst their betters swanned around in finery and drank aperitifs and digestives.
Blithe Spirit is a period piece that for me, must remain in its time frame to capture this world. Also, to make Coward’s spoilt bunch more interesting than cartoon characters requires a director who respects the text and a company who believe in what they are saying and doing – no matter how ridiculous.
Seasoned thespian and CEO of Malvern Theatres, Nic Lloyd is in his element directing this show. I always enjoy seeing his annual hands-on at the coalface with the in-house Malvern Theatre Young Company and to me, this is his and their, best outing to date.
Rhys Harris-Clarke pulls all the right faces as the hapless novelist and socialite Charles Condomine whose deceased wife is brought back in a botched-up after dinner séance. Never once does Clarke lose his focus or his own infectious self-belief.
Mia Stevens engages as Charles’ beautiful second wife Ruth, going from smoldering to sizzling as the preposterous plot develops. Equally beguiling is the portrayal of Elvira, the naughty ethereal first wife by Emma King.
Toby Burchell brings a ‘Doctor Findlay’s Casebook’ bedside manner to friend and neighbour Doctor Bradman and Rachael Maltby, who draws the short straw on the lines, skillfully extracts every moment of humour from the role by gesture and vocal inflection. Tara Semple is well cast as Edith the maid
Moa Myerson is simply magical as the wacky clairvoyant Madame
Arcati. She looks and sounds as Arcati should – normally it’s down to an
ancient dame of the stage to tackle it, but Myerson’s youthful hippy-ness was a delightful departure. To hear her singing Irving Berlin’s
‘Always’ rather than listening to the record gets my ‘top moment’ mention.
Bridget Lloyd excels in costume design and Martyn Watkins captures
the moods with simple but faultless lighting.
To top off a perfect summer evening in Malvern, it was performed in the brand new ‘Studio One’ space. The spirit was indeed convivial and perfectly blithe.
Blithe Spirit runs at Malvern Theatres until Sunday, August 13. Click here for times, tickets and more information.
Review by Euan Rose
Euan Rose Reviews