It has been fifty years since the Nottingham Playhouse last staged Blithe Spirit and, judging by the clear delight of today’s audience, you wonder why they left it so long.
Set in that golden period just before the second world war, but actually written in the dark days of 1941 when it proved a hugely popular morale booster, the play is set in the home of mystery writer Charles Condomine.
As research for his next novel about a murderous spiritualist, the author and his wife Ruth invite the eccentric medium Madame Arcati to stage an after-dinner séance to the amusement of his guests, the local doctor and his wife.
However, things go more than a little awry when the clairvoyant summons up the mischievous spirit of his first wife Elvira, much to the displeasure of the present Mrs Condomine.
With only Charles able to see Elvira much fun is to be had at cross dialogue and confusion to be had when only one half of the conversationalists are both visible and audible.
Noel Coward’s “very gay, superficial comedy about a ghost” is in safe hands with director Giles Croft and a fine cast lead by an outstanding Liz Crowther as Madame Arcati. In a carefully judged performance she treads just the right line between total loopiness and a credible enthusiasm for her role in the spirit-raising business.
Giles Taylor puts in a masterful turn as Condomine ably supported by Lucy Robinson as his confused but coping wife, while Clare Swinburne captures Elvira’s impish spirit to perfection.
- Nick Brunger