Ghosts, séances, trances and plenty of spirit – the curtain has risen on a really ‘super’-natural production at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn.
Mad Cow Productions’ version of the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit has started its five show run in the Walker Theatre, and comes hot on the heels of their sell-out stage show The Full Monty.
It is not the Shropshire amateur theatre group’s first foray into Coward’s work, and just like the hugely successful Present Laughter last year – their version of a Coward classic captures all the playwright’s wit and flamboyance – and some.
It is a play that the director Alex Hinton has said she had wanted to do for many years – but had always put it to one side because of the small cast, until now. And last night’s audience was rather delighted that she did.
Blithe Spirit was hauntingly fabulous.
“My cast has enjoyed Coward’s wit and wisdom, and I have thoroughly enjoyed guiding them through and watching them develop their roles,” said Alex.
That enjoyment was evident, as the cast of seven immersed themselves in Coward’s wonderful characters – Ellie Giblin as the strait-laced Ruth Condomime; Joe Phillips as her novelist husband Charles; while Barbara Vesty was effervescent as the eccentric clairvoyant Madame Arcati and Donatella Butt’s ghostly performance as the moody and impatient Elvira was supernaturally splendid.
The Mad Cow attention to detail both in the costumes, make-up and the fabulous set helped to set the scene, and the intimacy of the Walker Theatre made us feel right at home in the 1930s living room at socialites Charles and Ruth’s house.
It began with a séance with Madame Arcati for the purpose of research for a novel that Charles was writing – but it backfires and inadvertently leads to the appearance of his first wife, Elvira who died seven years before and was now a ghost.
The audience was taken on a journey of hilarious twists and turns, with dollops of ectoplasm, several more séances and copious amounts of dry martinis and brandy as Elvira made desperate efforts to disrupt Charles’s marriage to second wife Ruth – who could not see her!
Unmissable if you love Coward.
Mad Cow Production’s version of Blithe Spirit runs until Saturday night in the Walker Theatre at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury.
Review by Claire Dunn