TITLE: Huddersfield Thespians, Blithe Spirit
By WILLIAM MARSHALL
NOEL Coward’s high concept comedy is, like all of his works, difficult to bring off well. And the Thespians have not quite conquered the Master’s spooky satire. But there are good performances and the interest and suspense are maintained to the end.
Blithe Spirit, in which a self-centred author’s late first wife returns from her astral plane to haunt him to distraction, is – as one would expect from its author – a wordy play. This helps to account for a rather high prompt quotient on the first night, a problem which might be eliminated during its run. But the flow of the dialogue was halted mid-stream a little too often and this is not what one wants in a Noel Coward play.
Another problem was that verbal and visual “punch lines” at the culmination of several of the scenes fell flat. A little more energy and momentum might have solved this issue.
There are good points about Alistair Cheetham’s production, however. The set works well – although some of the pictures on the wall looked a little too tattily suburban for a sophisticated household – and the make-up and costume for the ghostly Elvira and the various complications surrounding her manifestations are handled with real stagecraft.
In the role of this petulant phantom, as skittish and selfish in death as she was in life, Charlotte Cooper acts with excellence – as good a realisation of this part as one might find on any stage.
Playing the haunted author, Charles Condomine, Peter Cooper proves to be a most interesting and vivid actor, able to draw on endless reserves of exasperation and frustration. At the end of the play, he reveals his true personality with plenty of wit.Š
Moyra Miller displays equal accomplishment in the iconic role of Madame Arcarti, the rather muddled medium. As Ruth Condomine, Miriam Marsden gained in confidence as the production progressed and, at the end of the play, she and Elvira made an excellently entertaining and waspish double act.
We also have decent acting in the smaller roles – Alun Jones as a Dr Watson-ish Dr Bradman, Maureen Speight as Violet Bradman and Ruth Adams as the mousyŠmaid Edith, who suddenly becomes the fulcrum of the plot as Blithe Spirit nears its climax.
The play continues until Saturday, when there is also a matinee.