Duke of York's Theatre
St Martin's Lane, London
Public Previews: 5 March 2020
Opens: 10 March 2020
Closes: 11 April 2020
Buy tickets:Buy tickets online
Nearest Tube: Leicester Square
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Wednesday at 7.30pm
Thursday 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no show
Thu 5 March at 7.30pm only
Tue 10 March at 7.00pm only
Tue 7 April at 7.30pm only
Runs ? hours and ? minutes
£? to £?
(plus booking fees if applicable)
A major revival of Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Jennifer Saunders
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 wants her husband back by fair means or foul, hilarious confusion ensues...
The cast features Jennifer Saunders as 'Madame Arcati' with Geoffrey Streatfeild as 'Charles Condomine', and Lisa Dillon as 'Ruth Condomine', with Simon Coates as 'Dr Bradman', Emma Naomi as 'Elvira', Lucy Robinson as 'Mrs Bradman', and Rose Wardlaw as 'Edith' - who all reprise their roles from the original Theatre Royal Bath 2019 staging. Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Anthony Ward, illusions by Paul Kieve, lighting by Howard Harrison, and sound by John Leonard.
When this production opened at the Theatre Royal Bath in June 2019, Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted how "Richard Eyre's ditzy revival starring Jennifer Saunders... is sumptuously served by Anthony Ward's capacious set with mullioned windows, meandering beams and inglenook fireplace. The set erupts into a poltergeist finale that's as delightful as it is silly. A vintage performance." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph praised "the revelation of Jennifer Saunders' turn - fully physicalised, funny bones to the fore, harnessing everything we love about her but entering another dimension of expressiveness... [her] comic business adds vitality. This is a surprising, hale-and-hearty reading: a horsey accent accompanied by nervy chortles betraying social ill-ease." Sam Marlowe in the Times said that, "with a spirit-lifting performance from Jennifer Saunders as the flamboyantly eccentric Madame Arcati, it can't fail. Saunders is killingly funny, adding that in "Richard Eyre's staging [the production] is acted with verve, the laughter always undercut by the chafing of domestic boredom and matrimonial incompatibility. And whenever Saunders strides into view, niggles don't stand the ghost of a chance... Enormous, life-affirming fun."
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, playing for 1,997 performances when it was first staged in London's West End in 1941, and Noel Coward's trademark wit and sophisticated banter dovetailed with moments of high humour continues to be popular with audiences ever since.
The original film version premiered on 5 April 1945 at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square with a cast that featured Margaret Rutherford as 'Madame Arcati' and Kay Hammond as 'Elvira Condomine', who where both reprising the roles they originated on stage. They where joined in the film version by Rex Harrison as 'Charles Condomine', Constance Cummings as 'Ruth Condomine', Hugh Wakefield as 'Doctor Bradman', Joyce Carey as 'Mrs Bradman', and Jacqueline Clarke as 'Edith'.
Jennifer Saunders' West End theatre credits include the role of 'Duchess of Berwick' in Kathy Burke's revival of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2018; and performing opposite her comedy partner Dawn French in French and Saunders Still Alive at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2008.
"The main draw of this production is Jennifer Saunders who, unsurprisingly, makes a splendid Madame Arcati... But you never really believe that Madame Arcati trusts her own psychic powers, which dulls the impact of the play's paranormal shenanigans... Anthony Ward's colourfully cluttered set brings to life the Condomines' claustrophobic living room. And the magical effects are slickly done... A good-natured, pacy production that successfully summons all of the play's silliness - if not the entirety of its darker side." The Mail on Sunday
"Jennifer Saunders as the medium Madame Arcati is the draw here - and she delivers, with a brilliantly physical display of comic clowning. She plays Arcati for laughs and entirely without vanity, but not without conveying hinterland, even pathos... Richard Eyre directs gamely, Anthony Ward's library set and early-1950s costumes are entrancing and Howard Harrison's lighting design is striking... But still, what a silly, rather pointless, old-fashioned play." The Sunday Times
"This is essentially a one-joke play and, although Richard Eyre's characteristically meticulous production varies it as much as possible, the joke palls long before the final curtain. Geoffrey Streatfield and Lisa Dillon are splendid as Charles and Ruth and Rose Wardlaw pitch-perfect as a psychic maid but Blithe Spirit stands and falls by the performance of Madame Arcati. Jennifer Saunders does not disappoint... she is comic gold." The Sunday Express
Geoffrey Streatfeild's London stage credits include the title role of 'Nikolai Ivanov' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in 2016; the role of 'Daniel' in Robert Hastie's revival of Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg at the Donmar Warehouse in 2014, and transfer to the Apollo Theatre in 2015; and the role of 'Officer' in Katie Mitchell's revival of Harold Pinter's Mountain Language at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs in 2001.
Lisa Dillon's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Gilda' in Anthony Page's revival of Noel Coward's Design for Living at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010; 'Raymonde' in Richard Eyre's revival of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010; 'Sibyl Chase' in Richard Eyre's revival of Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2010; 'Joanna Lyppiatt' in Howard Davies' revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 2007; 'Desdemona' in Gregory Doran's revival of William Shakespeare's Othello at the Trafalgar Studios in 2004; and 'Hilde Wangel' in Anthony Page's revival of Henrik Ibsen's The Master Builder at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 2003.
This production transfers to London's West End following an acclaimed season at the Theatre Royal in Bath in 2019, and a UK tour in 2020. At the Theatre Royal Bath (previewed from 14 June 2019, opened on 19 June 2019, and closed on 6 July 2019) the cast featured Jennifer Saunders as 'Madame Arcati', Geoffrey Streatfeild as 'Charles Condomine', and Lisa Dillon as 'Ruth Condomine', with Simon Coates as 'Dr Bradman', Emma Naomi as 'Elvira', Lucy Robinson as 'Mrs Bradman', and Rose Wardlaw as 'Edith'.
Blithe Spirit in London at the Duke of York's Theatre, public previews from 5 March 2020, opens on 10 March 2020, and closes on 11 April 2020
Original West End London Production 1941 - Margaret Rutherford
Opened 2 July 1941, Closed 27 June 1942 at the Piccadilly Theatre
Transferred 29 June 1942, Closed 3 October 1942 at the St James Theatre (now demolished)
Transferred 6 October 1942, Closed 9 March 1946 at the Duchess Theatre
The original cast featured Margaret Rutherford as 'Madame Arcati', Ruth Reeves as 'Edith', Fay Compton as 'Ruth Condomine', Cecil Parker as 'Charles Condomine', Martin Lewis as 'Doctor Bradman', Moya Nugent as 'Mrs Bradman', and Kay Hammond as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Noel Coward with designs by Gladys E Calthrop.
This production played a total of 1,997 performances making it, at the time, the longest ever running non-musical show in London's West End.
The St James' Theatre was a 1,200-seat theatre located in King Street in St James's, London.
1st West End London Revival 1970 - Beryl Reid
Opened 23 July 1970, Closed 16 January 1971 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
The cast featured Beryl Reid as 'Madame Arcati', Sylvia Brayshay as 'Edith', Phyllis Calvert as 'Ruth Condomine', Patrick Cargill as 'Charles Condomine', John Hart Dyke as 'Doctor Bradman', Daphne Newton as 'Mrs Bradman', and Amanda Reiss as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Nigel Patrick with designs by Pamela Ingram.
London Revival 1976 - Elizabeth Spriggs
Previewed 18 June 1976, Opened 24 June 1976, Closed 21 December 1976 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre
Transferred 9 February 1977, Closed 18 May 1977 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre
The cast featured Elizabeth Spriggs as 'Madame Arcati', Susan Williamson as 'Edith', Rowena Cooper as 'Ruth Condomine', Richard Johnson as 'Charles Condomine', Geoffrey Chater as 'Dr Bradman', Joan Hickson as 'Mrs Bradman', and Maria Aitken as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Harold Pinter with sets by Eileen Diss, costumes by Robin Fraser Paye, and lighting by Richard Pilbrow.
This production, which was playing in repertory, was scheduled to close on Saturday 28 May 1977, but due to an industrial dispute at the theatre, the scheduled last three performances on Friday 27 May and Saturday 28 May 1977 where cancelled at short notice. Therefore the final performance of this production was on Saturday 18 May 1977.
2nd West End London Revival 1986 - Marcia Warren
Previewed 17 January 1986, Opened 30 January 1986, Closed 23 August 1987 at the Vaudeville Theatre
The cast featured Marcia Warren as 'Madame Arcati', Imogen Bain as 'Edith', Jane Asher as 'Ruth Condomine', Simon Cadell as 'Charles Condomine', Roger Hume as 'Doctor Bradman', Rachel Herbert as 'Mrs Bradman', and Joanna Lumley as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Peter Farago with designs by Carl Toms, lighting by Leonard Tucker, and music by Richard Addinsell.
London Revival 1989 - Peggy Mount
Previewed 13 June 1989, Opened 15 June 1989, Closed 1 July 1989 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
The cast featured Peggy Mount as 'Madame Arcati', Lynette McMarrough as 'Edith', Deborah Grant as 'Ruth Condomine', Neil Stacey as 'Charles Condomine', Michael Knowles as 'Doctor Bradman', Eira Griffiths as 'Mrs Bradman', and Rula Lenska as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by John David with sets by Terry Parsons, costumes by Philippe Brandt, and lighting by Richard Caswell.
This was a touring production which visited the Hammersmith Lyric Theatre in West London for two weeks as part of the tour.
3rd West End London Revival 2004 - Penelope Keith / Stephanie Cole
Previewed 16 November 2004, Opened 22 November 2004, Closed 28 May 2005 at the Savoy Theatre
A major revival of Noel Coward's classic comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Penelope Keith and directed Thea Sharrock.
The cast featured Penelope Keith as 'Madame Arcati' (up to 2 April 2005) and Stephanie Cole as 'Madam Arcarti' (from 4 April 2005), Michelle Terry as 'Edith', Joanna Riding as 'Ruth Condomine', Aden Gillett as 'Charles Condomine', Derek Hutchinson as 'Doctor Bradman', Barbara Kirby as 'Mrs Bradman', and Amanda Drew as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Peter Mumford, and sound by Gareth Fry.
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."
"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.
4th West End London Revival 2011 - Alison Steadman
Previewed 2 March 2011, Opened 9 March 2011, Closed 18 June 2011 at the Apollo Theatre
A major revival of Noel Coward's classic comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Alison Steadman and directed by Thea Sharrock.
The cast featured Alison Steadman as 'Madame Arcati', Jodie Taibi as 'Edith', Hermione Norris as 'Ruth Condomine', Robert Bathurst as 'Charles Condomine', Bo Poraj as 'Doctor Bradman', Charlotte Thornton as 'Mrs Bradman', and Ruthie Henshall as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Thea Sharrock with designs by Hildegard Bechtler, lighting by Mark Henderson, and sound by Gregory Clarke. Prior to London the production was staged at the Theatre Royal in Bath.
Alison Steadman's London stage credits include the role of 'Connie' in Christopher Luscombe's revival of Alan Bennett's Enjoy at the Gielgud Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Sheila' in Robin LefŤvre's production of Simon Mendes da Costa's new play Losing Louis at the Trafalgar Studio in 2005; the role of 'Hilary' in Debbie Isitt's production of her own play The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2002; the role of 'Teresa' in Terry Johnson's production of Shelagh Stephenson's comedy Memory of Water at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1999; the role of 'Mari Hoff' in Sam Mendes' production of Jim Cartwright's The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at the Aldwych Theatre in 1992; the role of 'Mea' in Howard Davies' revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1988; and the role of 'Elmire' in Bill Alexander's revival of Moliere's comedy Tartuffe, translated and adapted by Christopher Hampton, at the Barbican Pit Theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1983.
Ruthie Henshall's West End stage credits include the role of 'Aphra' in John Caird's production of Stephen Schwartz's musical Children of Eden at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1991; the role of 'Fantine' in Trevor Nunn and John Caird's production of the musical Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre in 1992; the role of 'Polly Baker' in Mike Ockrent' production of the Gershwin musical Crazy for You at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1993; the role of 'Amalia' in Scot Ellis' revival of the Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick musical She Loves Me at the Savoy Theatre in 1994; the role of 'Nancy' in Sam Mendes' revival of the Lionel Bart musical Oliver! at the London Palladium in 1996; the role of 'Roxie Hart' in Walter Bobbie's revival of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre in 1997, and at the Cambridge Theatre in 2009; the title role in Kelly Robinson's production of the musical Peggy Sue Got Married, adapted from the Francis Ford Coppola film, at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2001; the role of 'Marian Halcombe' in Trevor Nunn's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White at the Palace Theatre in 2005; and the title role in Jonathan Kent's production of the new musical Marguerite, based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, at the Haymarket Theatre in 2008.
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 in 2004.
"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
Blithe Spirit in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 2 March 2011, opened on 9 March 2011 and closed on 18 June 2011.
5th West End London Revival 2014 - Angela Lansbury
Previewed 1 March 2014, Opened 18 March 2014, Closed 7 June 2014 at the Gielgud Theatre
A major revival of Noel Coward's comedy Blithe Spirit in London starring Angela Lansbury and directed by Michael Blakemore.
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'.
The cast featured Angela Lansbury as 'Madame Arcati', Patsy Ferran as 'Edith', Janie Dee as 'Ruth Condomine', Charles Edwards as 'Charles Condomine', Simon Jones as 'Doctor Bradman', Serena Evans as 'Mrs Bradman', and Jemima Rooper as 'Elvira Condomine'.
Directed by Michael Blakemore with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Mark Jonathan, and sound by Ben and Max Ringham.
Prior to opening Sandra Dickinson was announced to play the role of 'Mrs Bradman', bu she was replaced by Serena Evans before the first preview performances took place.
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 Daily 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.