As if Blithe Spirit wasn’t already captivating enough with its ghostly themes and marital discord. Throw in a last minute cast replacement and it’s positively riveting.
I can’t imagine how disappointing it must have been for actress Roz Hammond to have been taken ill and relinquish the role of Madame Arcati. Or how nerve-racking it must have been for actress Alison van Reeken to suddenly step into the role of a medium, script in hand. She was as superb as Arcati as she was as Wynne in the Black Swan’s Dinner production earlier this year.
Originally written by English playwright Noel Coward 1941, Blithe Spirit is still just as relevant today. After all, spiritualism and relationships translate to any decade. He created the script in just five bleak days while surrounded by the death and destruction of WWII; no wonder he so effectively constructed a play about communicating with the “other side.” In fact, when it was first performed air raid sirens were a common event, but the show always went on; just as it does today even with the replacement of a major cast member.
Coward’s characters continue to jump off the page and onto the stage from the spooked husband and author Charles Condomine (Adam Booth), confronted with the appearance of his dead wife Elvira (Jo Morris), much to the dismay of his very much alive and current wife Ruth (Adriane Daff). Ruth tolerates her husband’s ghostly “visions” if only for the opportunity to evaluate her own status in the marriage, which up until the point where Charles employs the services of medium Arcati, was relatively predictable.
Despite her deathly appearance in grey from head to toe, Elvira’s ironic liveliness is pivotal to the play. Only Charles can see her, until things really go awry. The addition of the characters husband (Michael Loney) and wife (Michelle Fornasier) duo The Bradmans, adds to the tension as they mildly mirror the complexities of the Condomine’s marriage. Edith (Ella Hetherington), the maid, seemingly plays a small part, but it is worth taking note of her lurking in the background, if only to witness her reaction to Ruth’s prim and proper Englishness.
Astral bigotry, witty repertoire and a lightness of touch; Blithe Spirit is brought to you by the Black Swan Theatre Company and delights at the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre of WA until 9 August 2015. On Saturday 1 August at 7.30pm, there will be a live broadcast to regional WA audiences.
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