Spooky goings on are occurring at The Apollo Theatre, London at the moment, courtesy of a revival of Noel Coward’s classic play Blithe Spirit. Despite this being a Coward classic, this was my first time seeing it.
It’s a play very much of its time, but that adds to its charm and fun. Ruthie Henshall is deliciously impish as the ghost Elvira and revels in the havoc she’s causing, especially when she sprays Hermione Norris with the soda dispenser you can sense the glee, but spraying your co-star each night must be fun!
Hermione Norris is a stylish and perplexed Ruth who captures brilliantly the confusion of her character. Robert Bathurst is perfect casting for the haunted Charles and his torment is played perfectly, as well as his joy in seeing his first wife Elvira again.
Alison Steadman has the chance to steal the show with her character Madame Arcati, which she wisely chooses not to do, rather she plays the character for the laughs that it is superbly written to get and actually brings tenderness to the character, as she’s as equally perplexed at the goings on as the others. Rather than veering off into the melodramatic she reins in this character, which I think is much better. That’s not to say she doesn’t know when to go a bit over the top with the role, but she gives the character a depth I imagine few actresses have.
Jodie Taibi as Edith the Maid, is hilarious, from her opening splits to her final denouement, she proves that even though Coward wrote small parts for some, they’re actually very important. Bo Poraj plays the stiff upper lipped and skeptical Dr Bradman charmingly and Charlotte Thornton as Mrs Bradman is likewise first-class. (my wife also loved this characters trouser suit, which was stunning!)
The plays finale is spooky and stupendous. The whole production is first-rate. This is a very enjoyable play, regarded by those wiser than I as one of Coward’s best. This is a finely assembled cast of top pros and so I don’t think I’m going to see it presented better than this. As mentioned earlier, it would be easy for several of the characters to be over the top and “steal the show”, rather this cast work as a whole to give the piece much needed balance, I think the play is stronger for their restraint. Thea Sharrock is to be commended for directing the play in this way. If you fancy seeing a fun play that’s a “modern” classic, presented by a fine cast of actors, I think you’ll enjoy this.