Theatre review: Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre

BLITHE SPIRIT by Coward, , writer - Noel Coward, Directer - Michael Blakemore, Gielgud theatre, 2014, Credit: Johan...

BLITHE SPIRIT by Coward, , writer - Noel Coward, Directer - Michael Blakemore, Gielgud theatre, 2014, Credit: Johan Persson/ - Credit: Archant

National treasure Angela Lansbury first performed in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit five years ago on Broadway. Now under Hampstead director Michael Blakemore she reprises her 2009 Tony award-winning role as eccentric medium Madame Arcati in the West End.

Researching his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible Madame Arcati to his house for a séance. Charles and his wife do not take the visitor seriously as they watch her use a series of jerking movements and signals during the séances to summon ectoplasm.

But suddenly, whilst consumed in a trance, the medium unwittingly summons the mischievous ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira.

Appearing only to Charles, to much hilarity, Elvira soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of new wife Ruth - especially when it becomes clear that Elvira has no intention of leaving!

The audience were clearly enamoured with the 88 year old Lansbury and there was an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation that wasn’t disappointed.

The veteran actress’ portrayal of the endearing oddball medium who has unwittingly succeeded in bringing someone back from the dead was applauded at every exit and entrance.

Charles Edwards was also fantastic as the well-groomed popular novelist whose comfortable life is destroyed by the arrival of his ex-wife – particularly when he is told that Elvira could not have re-appeared without his subconscious acquiescence. His desperation when he realises he somehow has to keep two wives happy is delicious.

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Janie Dee also excels as Charles’ stern second wife Ruth and Jemima Rooper is delightfully vampish as the mischief-making Elvira. Simon Higlett’s splendid, spacious design sets the ghostly mood perfectly.

Rating: Five stars

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