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Posted by : Mark-Courtice on May 27, 2009 - 11:15 AM Archive

by Noel Coward.

Watermill Theatre To 27 June 2009.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm except 27 June at 6.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 27 June 1.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 01635 46044.
Review: Mark Courtice 25 May.

Summer fun.

Like the appearance of bank holiday traffic, hay fever, Hay Fever, and the Hay-on-Wye Festival, Blithe Spirit at the local theatre means summer’s here. This one, however, feels like a harbinger of showers as well as sunshine.

Sophisticated novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth are entertaining a couple of the locals; Charles hopes to combine this with some research, so he has invited local medium Madam Arcati to do her stuff as the after dinner entertainment. Her less than impressive efforts are enough to provide a crack between this world and the next through which the shade of first wife Elvira can slip.....

Written at great speed during the Second World War, this play takes a relaxed and very funny view of death, marital discord and moral disorder. It needs to be handled carefully so as not to turn out mean and nasty.

In reaching for the right tone, director O'Loughlin presses hard, driving the scene changes on as they are danced to light music from the post war period. The actors ruthlessly ride over laughs as they keep things moving at all costs. There is no standing about posing here.

All this energy and movement does not quite substitute for lightness of touch and good humour. Sometimes upstaging Coward’s glittering language with visual jokes, this production just misses the delightfully wicked tone that should keep the bickering between Charles and his wives funny rather than just bitchy.

Without husband Charles having quite enough charm, and without first wife Elvira offering an alternative (here the ghosts are rather solid and corporeal), Ruth’s waspish (but helpless) irritation overpoweringly gives this production its tone. This is partly because Caitlin Mottram’s performance is so good; controlled, exasperated, but engaging, interesting and consistent.

Claire Vousden is an Arcati more distracted than eccentric; this is a thoughtful performance, but it sacrifices the big laughs. Emily Wachter’s vitally important maid, Edith, really is good fun. Moving like gliding treacle or suddenly dashing off on errands, she understands the importance of taking a risk to keep things blithe in this complicated play.

Dr Braidman Anthony Gabriel.
Charles Condomine Hywel Morgan.
Ruth Condomine Caitlin Mottram.
Mrs Braidman Joanne Redman.
Madame Arcati Claire Vousden.
Edith Emily Wachter.
Elvira Kelly Williams.

Director: Orla O’Loughlin.
Designer: Chloe Lamford.
Lighting/Sound: Philip Gladwell.
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