Blithe Spirit

Previewed 1 March 2014, Opened 18 March 2014, Closed 7 June 2014 at the Gielgud Theatre in London

A major revival of Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit in London at the Gielgud Theatre starring Angela Lansbury and directed by Michael Blakemore.

In Noel Coward's sparkling classic comedy Blithe Spirit author and socialite Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth decide to hold a sťance as an after dinner entertainment. But when the wildly eccentric medium Madame Arcati inadvertently conjures up the ghost of Charles' deceased first wife Elvira, who wants her husband back by fair means or foul, hilarious confusion ensues...

The cast stars Angela Lansbury as 'Madame Arcati' along with Charles Edwards as 'Charles Condomine', Jemima Rooper as 'Elvira' and Janie Dee as 'Ruth' with Sandra Dickinson, Simon Jones and Patsy Ferran. The production is directed by Michael Blakemore with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Mark Jonathan and sound by Ben and Max Ringham. Theatre legend, Oscar-winner and five-time Tony Award-winner Angela Lansbury returns to London's West End for the first time in nearly forty years, reprising her 2009 Tony Award-winning role as 'Madame Arcati'.

When this production opened Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph hailed it as being a "richly enjoyable staging of one of NoŽl Coward's most inventive comedies... it is a comedy that still startles and delights... the whole show is a treat and Blakemore's production splendidly captures the bracing heartlessness of the comedy." Dominic Maxwell in the Times asked: "Why revive this creaky old NoŽl Coward ghost comedy only three years after it last played in the West End? One reason: Dame Angela Lansbury. Now 88, she has returned to the West End after 40 years to give a masterclass in character comedy as Coward's dotty medium, Madame Arcati." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times agreed saying that "her performance as the medium Madame Arcati is an absolute joy, beautifully pitched on the border between eccentric and earnest. She's crisp, precise and drolly unpredictable." In the Daiy Express Simon Edge highlighted that "the applause she gets on her first exit is because she is gob-smackingly brilliant - an 88-year-old force of nature... It's a magnetic turn, her indomitable prattle supplemented by impeccably timed comic sniffs, blinks and withering stares. Her age makes her vitality all the more remarkable." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "even without Dame Angela this would be a top-class show. With her, it is a West End event." Paul Taylor in the Independent commented that "she emphasises the medium's batty and admirable self-belief that makes her portrayal so funny and endearing," adding that it was a "wittily assured production."

Charles Edwards' West End credits include The King's Speech (Wyndham's Theatre 2012), Hay Fever (Haymarket Theatre 2006) and originating the central role of 'Richard Hannay' in The 39 Steps (Criterion Theatre 2006). Jemima Rooper's London theatre credits include All My Sons (Apollo Theatre 2010). Janie Dee's London credits include Woman in Mind (Vaudeville Theatre 2009), Shadowlands (Wyndham's Theatre 2007) and Mack and Mabel (Criterion Theatre 2006).

"Like Lady Bracknell in The Importance Of Being Earnest, Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit is an essentially minor character who comes to dominate the play. When the role is taken by one of the world's most enduring stars, expectations are sky high. And Angela Lansbury does not disappoint... She attacks the role of Noel Coward's eccentric spiritualist with gusto... With Act One stage directions projected on to the front cloth, Michael Blakemore's masterly production raises laughs before the play even opens and, apart from some over-emphatic business for the maid, it fully deserves them. If Dame Angela could summon the ghost of Noel Coward he would surely be smiling." The Express on Sunday

"Whoops at Angela Lansbury's entrance, whoops at her exit, further whoops as she pops back for another cucumber sandwich. And every whoop deserved. This isn't just any old revival of NoŽl Coward's Blithe Spirit, but one that brings a national treasure back to the West End at the mighty age of 88 after a gap of some four decades. It's an EVENT... Marvellous and redoubtable as Lansbury is, Michael Blakemore's production is not all about her; it is also a piercing portrait of a miserable mťnage ŗ trois... For there is cruelty in this comedy. And abundant theatricality. Blakemore's playful, yet painful revival has sparks flying - and also brings the roof down. Quite literally." The Mail on Sunday

"Michael Blakemore's new production of Blithe Spirit is a dream, fast-paced and very, very funny, with that all-important airiness and lightness of touch that the Master would have loved. The play is such a stage staple that one can get a little weary of it. But here, it's as sharp and fresh as a dry martini on a summer afternoon... Angela Lansbury is the star, however, and she is sublime... This is a comic jewel of a performance. Her Madame Arcati is just dotty enough, but never exaggeratedly fruity or over the top, and she's shrewd and perceptive with it... Angela Lansbury is the most richly entertaining Madame Arcati I've ever seen." The Sunday Times

Blithe Spirit in London at the Gieldgud Theatre previewed from 1 March 2014, opened on 18 March 2014 and closed on 7 June 2014.

Blithe Spirit with Alison Steadman 2011

Previewed 2 March 2011, Opened 9 March 2011, Closed 18 June 2011 at the Apollo Theatre in London

A major revival of Noel Coward's classic comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Alison Steadman and directed by Thea Sharrock.

Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit is a classic British stage comedy, which was also turned into a highly successful film by David Lean. This revival of Blithe Spirit in London stars Alison Steadman as 'Madame Arcati', Ruthie Henshall plays 'Elvira', Robert Bathurst 'Charles' and Hermione Norris 'Ruth'. Prior to London the production will be staged at the Theatre Royal in Bath. Alison Steadman's West End theatre credits include Shelagh Stephenson's comedy Memory of Water at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1999.

"Alison Steadman, as the preposterous Madame Arcati, certainly does a pleasingly dotty old bag -- but possibly overdoes it. At times, she is just too showily eccentric, and Sharrock might have reined her in a bit... Robert Bathurst is entirely comfortable and often very funny as Charles, a generic Coward type... his lines benefit from a brilliantly rapid delivery. As for Ruthie Henshall, she may be dead, but she's still dead voluptuous... At least as good as any of them -- possibly better -- is Jodie Taibi, as Edith the maid, a small role to which she brings hilarious physical comedy, wide-eyed amazement and, finally, even a touch of real emotion, the only such moment in the play. This is a run-of-the-mill West End Noel Coward: middle-aged, middle-of-the-road. Nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes... all the tricks of the well-crafted play are handsomely on display." The Sunday Times

"Thea Sharrock's latest revival of the Noel Coward comedy is a bitter disappointment. Its nominal star, Robert Bathurst, is fine at playing weak and rather seedy character parts but he isn't blessed with the necessary oomph to hold a show like this together as a leading man. As Charles, he brings none of the requisite edge to his relationship with his wife, Ruth... Worse, when Alison Steadman's Madame Arcati summons up the ghost of Charles's first wife Elvira, on walks Ruthie Henshall, playing not the beguiling apparition that Coward envisaged, but a pantomime villainess with a rictus grin. What it all lacks, in a word, is class." The Sunday Telegraph

"Noel Coward called his play Blithe Spirit 'a light comedy about death'. Dashed off in a five-day whirl in the dark days of 1941, he liked to think that his contribution to the war effort was to entertain. Evidently that first production hit the spot, because the run lasted a record-breaking five years. Sixty years on, in Thea Sharrock's star-studded but distinctly lacklustre revival at London's Apollo Theatre, a hit becomes a miss. Laboured where it should be light, deathly where it should frolic, it can't even be rescued by Coward's brilliance because, of all his plays, this one has fewer than its fair share of hilarious one-liners... Alison Steadman's Madame Arcati arrives in a Biggles helmet and goggles and limbers up for her seance with lots of arm and leg stretches and Haka-like grunting as if warming up for a rugby match. Alas, it's a comic turn rather than the fully-rounded eccentric Margaret Rutherford conjured up unforgettably in David Lean's film. Steadman is jolly enough but only a medium medium... Only in the final scene, when Charles has disappeared, leaving his spook-spouses together, does the play flicker to life in a blaze of pyrotechnics. Literally. Light bulbs fizzle, a chandelier plunges to the carpet and sparks fly. Until then, it's all decidedly dispiriting." The Mail on Sunday

This production marks the second time that director Thea Sharrock has staged this comedy in London's West End. The first time was at the Savoy Theatre in a production which starred Penelope Keith and Stephanie Cole as 'Madame Arcati' which enjoyed a six month season at end of 2004.

Blithe Spirit in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 2 March 2011, opened on 9 March 2011 and closed on 18 June 2011.

Blithe Spirit with Penelope Keith 2004

Previewed 16 November 2004, Opened 22 November 2004, Closed 28 May 2005 at the Savoy Theatre in London.

A major revival of Noel Coward's classic comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Penelope Keith and directed Thea Sharrock.

When this production opened the Independent hailed it as being "a blast... crackingly enjoyable," the Guardian praised it as being "a superb revival" and the Daily Telegraph highlighted that this was an "outstanding revival."

Noel Coward's classic masterpiece of high spirits and ghostly goings-on became one of the longest running comedies in the history of British theatre. With Coward's trademark wit and sophisticated banter dovetailed with moments of high humour, this sparkling revival is a winning combination that has rarely been bettered.

This production of Blithe Spirit in London stars Penelope Keith as 'Madam Arcarti' (up to 2 April 2005) and Stephanie Cole as 'Madam Arcarti' (from 4 April 2005) along with Aden Gillett as 'Charles', Joanna Riding as 'Ruth', Amanda Drew as 'Elvira', Derek Hutchinson, Barbara Kirby and Michelle Terry. The production is directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gareth Fry.

"Penelope Keith is more haughty professional than batty eccentric as Madame Arcati, the suburban spiritualist who instigates the spectral shenanigans in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. Whether sniffing ectoplasm like a fine wine or being particular about her sandwiches, cocktails and tea, Keith comes across like a bohemian Lady Bracknell in beads and a turban, someone who expects respect. A more dotty Arcati might be more endearing but Keith gives a winning physical performance in Thea Sharrock's entertaining touring revival for the Peter Hall Company, newly arrived in the West End. It proves that the best way to play Coward is for real, not for laughs." The Times

"Written over a weekend in 1941, Blithe Spirit has proved to be Noel Coward's most commercially successful and long-running play... Penelope Keith as Madame Arcati is the first in half a century to get us away from Margaret Rutherford shaking all those chins at Rex Harrison. And by reversing the usual casting and having Joanna Riding play Ruth, the second wife, as a hugely seductive temptress and Amanda Drew play Elvira as an unkempt slattern, we get a whole new perspective on Charles himself. Aden Gillett plays him not as the traditional Astral bigamist but as a slightly run-to-seed Elyot from Noel's Private Lives. In pulling Blithe Spirit back to earth, even from beyond the grave, this production does Coward's comedy of appalling manners a tremendous service." The Daily Express

Blithe Spirit in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 16 November 2004, opened on 22 November 2004 and closed on 28 May 2005.