31st May 2022
"Oozing with comfort and attention to detail" - Blithe Spirit, May 2022
Production: Blithe Spirit
Society: Wisbech Theatre Players
Director: Ian Jones
Date: 31st May 2022
Oh, wouldn’t the madcap, well-to-do denizens of Noel Coward’s pen be the most delightful dinner party guests ever? An evening in their company offers such wit and repartee, style, charm and, perhaps most important, the unexpected.
Coward’s Blithe Spirit is populated with characters blessed with all these attributes. The author’s joke across his fabulous plays, including Blithe Spirit, is that it would seem a lovely treat to be locked up with such people for a spell – until the plot confines the protagonists and we the audience with them, and the goings-on descend into a comedic hell.
Helmed by first-time director Ian Jones, the Wisbech Theatre Players brought Blithe Spirit to life – forgive the joke! – in a beautifully rendered single set oozing with comfort and attention to detail.
To quote the programme synopsis, “The play concerns socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his…first wife Elvira after the séance. Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to his second wife Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.”
Others making this spirited journey with Charles, Elvira, Ruth and Madame Arcati are their neighbours the Bradmans and three servants.
Into this frothy concoction, director Jones dropped an intriguing twist into the familiar storyline and casting in this production: Charles is successfully positioned as a toyboy for his wives, with the ladies – even the madcap Elvira – pursuing their individual dominance over their mutual husband.
As portrayed by Martin Lightburn, Charles was smug and highly pleased with himself as a creative genius, a lady charmer and country gentleman. But his energy depletes steadily through his trials and tribulations with his wives, and it is clear as he leaves the country home for the last time, he is literally running away for his life.
Helen Jones’s Ruth early on was the crisp and pragmatic lady of the house, in control of her universe including Charles, withering into a hysterical, out-of-control harridan. In the hands of Wendy Coles, elegant Elvira, floating around the action with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and insouciant, insolent swagger, had the lightest touch of the trio but exerted the greatest power.
Gay Hoyle had the pleasure of playing one of theatre’s most well-loved roles, Madame Arcati, the dotty clairvoyant who seemingly sets the otherworldly activities into action. Her first and third costumes were colourful and imaginative; the second costume she wore lacked that bright, overpowering look that should define Arcati’s aura.
Coward was brilliant at creating fascinating smaller roles as well as the larger-than-life opportunities for performers, and Blithe Spirit offers two such roles in neighbour Mrs Bradman and Edith, the housemaid. Fortunately, Wisbech Theatre Players had just the actresses to play them: Erica Lane was a chatty delight as the gossipy Mrs Bradman and Lizzie Bryant sparkled dramatically and sang beautifully as Edith, the housemaid with something extra.
Supporting with humour were Mark Fearnley as Dr Bradman (and set builder extraordinaire), Jenny Bryant as the maid, and Jane Brady as the butler.
Overall, the costumes were beautiful and perfectly period – the only disappointment being Madame Arcati’s quite plain second costume. Ruth’s Jean Harlow-esque wig in the afterlife was sumptuous and divine, and from doors to record player, the set was a visual treat.
The finale’s special effects (my lips are zipped!) also must come in for note; what fun to close out the action!
Thanks to the Wisbech Theatre Players and the Angles Theatre Wisbech for a multi-layered take on a shimmering classic.
Written by: DeeDee Doke, NODA Representative.
Notes to Editors:
Press queries may be directed to:
Robert Williams, Theatre Trustee
ABOUT THE ANGLES THEATRE
The Angles Theatre is a charity (Wisbech Theatre Trust - Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation 1173321) and cultural hub for the community, driven by passion for the work showcased, the people they work with and the audiences that come through their doors each season.
Situated in Fenland, our history dates back to the early 1700’s believed to have been built as part of the Lincoln theatre circuit.
This Georgian playhouse and arts venue, with two studios and bar space, is staffed almost entirely by volunteers, from the box office and bar, to backstage, administration and day-to-day accounting.
The mission of the Angles Theatre is to inspire, challenge, nurture and empower artists and audiences in and around Wisbech and Fenland, to create opportunities for community participation in enriching theatrical experiences.
Our focus is equally on inclusion and quality, giving the public a well-balanced theatrical season with a drive for excellence that meets all of the demands placed on a community theatre.
Find out more: www.anglestheatre.co.uk
The National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA), founded in 1899, is the leading representative body for amateur theatre in the UK.
The Association has a membership of approximately 2000 amateur theatre groups and approximately 800 individual members staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of venues ranging from the country's leading professional theatres to village halls. Covering a broad spectrum of age ranges, NODA member societies meet the needs of all levels of both performers, whether dramatic, dance or musical, and those involved backstage, front of house or in Company administration.
Get in touch with NODA:
Tel: 01733 374790
Mail: 15 The Metro Centre, Peterborough, PE2 7UH