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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.
In Noel Coward's sparkling classic comedy Blithe Spirit author and socialite Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth decide to hold a seance 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 forthwith begins a blithe and spirited campaign to reclaim her husband!
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, 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
"I must remember to run a mile the next time anyone tries to bring this drawing-room tosh back from the dead. Blithe Spirit's claim to 'minor classic' status is shot to hell as Alison Steadman hams it up as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati. This is surely the stuff of am-dram purgatory... The play definitely isn't Coward's best. His celebrated repartee has gone flat. Frustratingly, too, he hints that deep marital disappointments and mourning underlie Elvira's visitation, but he doesn't dare leave the shallows of light entertainment to explore these... [Thea Sharrock is] resting on her laurels with this unfinessed production." The Independent on Sunday"
"One way of explaining the popularity of this cold fish comedy – not so much glacially witty as icily smirking – is that it provides a daisy chain of set pieces. But, oh, the opportunities for hamming and over-egging that it provides. And they are taken here. Alison Steadman goes all out for being a hoot, playing Madame Arcati... As the ghostly wife Ruthie Henshall grins and dimples archly. There's a clever comic turn from Jodie Taibi as the maid...Still, the only attempt at a real character is made by Hermione Norris: as the replacement wife, she is a model of elegant scathing." The Observer
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.
Author and socialite Charles and his second wife Ruth decide to hold a seance as an after dinner entertainment. When the wildly eccentric medium Madame Arcati inadvertently conjures up the ghost of Charles' deceased first wife who wants her husband back by fair means or foul, hilarious confusion ensues...
"A blast... crackingly enjoyable" The Independent
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.
"A superb revival" The Guardian
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.
"Thea Sharrock's outstanding revival" The Daily Telegraph
"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.