Blithe Spirit

Date 27th November 2021
Society New Kinver Players
Venue Edward Marsh Centre (KSCA), Legion Drive, Kinver.
Type of Production Play
Director Roger Seabury
Stage Manager Seg Johnson
Lights Frank Latham
Sound Martin Ward


Author: Dave Brown

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is an enormously successful play and remains to this day resilient in its popularity and style. A couple of film adaptations and a Musical later, this play continues to exemplify Noel Cowards legacy and it remains highly regarded within many companies. Noel Coward provides a solid blueprint with characters clearly defined and stamps his witty skill as a wordsmith, blending beautifully the language and comedy, his unique charm, his wonderfully extravagant approach to life with his sense of cheekiness.

Blithe Spirit is about a wealthy and successful writer called Charles Condomine who is seeking inspiration for his next book. His first wife called Elvira has passed away and he is now married to his second wife Ruth. He has an idea to invite a medium called Madam Arcati to his house for dinner plans and to host a séance for his research. Seemingly considered a bit of fun by Charles, Ruth and their guests (Doctor Bradman and Mrs Bradman), Charles gets a bit of a shock when the eccentric Madam Arcati “accidentally” summons up his deceased wife Elvira. Being a ghost is also a bit of a surprise to Elvira but she soon discovers she can have a bit of fun when it is clear that Charles is the only person who can see and hear her. Throw into the mix, a newly appointed maid called Edith who is desperate to make a good impression but is not particularly dexterous, you have a play which takes a few surprise turns which ultimately leads to a few relationship problems and dangerous consequences.

The company of The New Kinver Players did this play justice under the direction of Roger Seabury and stage managed by Seg Johnson. The set was well thought out with nice detail which was complimented with some lovely consideration and touches to the costumes by Di McCann who worked hard in sourcing and also in making what was required. Light and sound by Frank Latham and Martin Ward helped the mood come alive on a single set and there must have been some fun playing with the ghostly special effects. I would have loved to have seen the complete destruction of the set at the end! I also liked the blending of the scene changes with the backstage crew coming onto the stage as maids (with Edith) resetting for the next scene. This was a great decision.

The characters were all well thought out with each member of the cast complementing each other nicely throughout. The cast worked very hard and achieved a very enjoyable performance. There were some wonderful one liners which were delivered well and these moments hit the nail on the head with timing. My personal favourite was the excellently delivered line by Edith “ooh sir!” when Charles thanked her abundantly for the evening and Edith imagined the worst; the innuendo was picked up by a select few in the audience but this should have brought the house down with some excellent timing by Chrissy Coleman who played Edith. Chrissy stood out with her strong performance throughout the play and stole every scene she was in. She was an excellent choice to play the maid. Another favourite line (of course) was when Charles said to his second wife Ruth, “If you're trying to compile an inventory of my sex life, I feel it only fair to warn you that you've omitted several episodes. I shall consult my diary and give you a complete list after lunch.” Pete Chambers delivered this line perfectly with a dry and natural tone and it got the desired response from the audience.  

Overall, there were moments of sheer brilliance and moments where some further work may have helped improve and compliment the story arc as the pace suffered in parts. This was not a major issue but it did cause a few jokes to fall a bit flat with the loss of clarity and sometimes the intent of the dialogue was lost.

A special mention to Mark Middleton (Doctor Bradman) and Lee Knight (Mrs Bradman) who had a nice on-stage relationship and both were perfectly cast. Mark and Lee seemed to really enjoy their parts and are extremely important characters to get right. There were hints of on-stage chemistry between Charles (Pete Chambers) and Ruth (Ruth Cattell) as well as some nice inner monologue by Ruth with some excellent reactions, particularly When Elvira (Emma Francis) arrives back on the scene after being dead for so long and then interfering and competing for Charles’ attention. Pete Chambers, Ruth Cattell and Emma Francis had some good presence on stage and they showed insightfulness to their surroundings; the scenes they were in together were compelling to watch.

The great Madam Arcati played by Sue Portsmouth was a delight. The character burst onto the stage with loads of enthusiasm and physicality and this level of energy remained and hardly faltered. Sue Portsmouth did a wonderful job playing an over-the-top medium and she used a lot of opportunities to utilise the physical comedy. She portrayed a very confident performance. I did wonder at times at what point would her portrayal of Madam Arcati go up or down a level, or if there was indeed anything else to offer after her exuberant initial entrance? Thankfully the dialogue saved the day with some moments which helped bring some further distinction to the character.

The cast and crew of New Kinver Players should be very proud of this production. A play like this has its challenges and requires a strong driving force, but New Kinver Players are a very strong and impressive company who certainly did not disappoint in achieving a great evening of entertainment. Thank you very much for the invitation and also to the very warm welcome from an impeccable front of house on a very chilly evening.  I hope to see you again soon.