presented by Ilkley Playhouse
Ilkley Playhouse have been regular visitors to Minack since 1975, winning the trophy for best production in 1979 for ‘Camelot’ and in 2009 for ‘The Crucible’ This is our twenty-third visit.
We are delighted to present an absolutely classic play, ‘Blithe Spirit’ by that master of wit, Noël Coward. You can expect characteristic 1930s glamour, elegance and panache.
Charles Condomine is a successful author, researching his new book with the help of his second wife, Ruth. He invites what he believes to be a charlatan spiritual medium to his home and the outcome is quite unexpected. Is the medium Madame Arcati a fraud? Or maybe the happenings in the house are the product of Charles’s frenzied imagination? Or is there someone else in the house who could help? Whatever the outcome this will prove an evening of fun and complete escapism.
So, join us for a night (or afternoon) of supernatural humour from the pen of that icon of 1930s style, Noël Coward.
This amateur production of “Blithe Spirit” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. on behalf of Samuel French Ltd. www.concordtheatricals.co.uk
Review by Jenni Balow
BY NOEL COWARD
AT THE MINACK
Knock, knock, is there anyone there? Well, yes, a bunch of spirited actors giving their best in an over-long heritage play that is haunted by ectoplasmic manifestations.
Noel Coward's classic, Blithe Spirit, first performed in the 1940's to take everyone's minds off the war, has been revived many times since. Perhaps too many times.
Even a recent film with a star cast failed to impress a 21st century audience that is unlikely to take to a farce involving an overblown medium, a seance and dinner with boring neighbours, and a spirit wife who flits around the sitting room like Tinkerbell, unseen by all, except for her seriously spooked former husband.
But for all that, the award winning Ilkley Players, picked a perfect cast for their 23rd visit to the Minack, making the best of the dated script, and taking us back to a middle class world where everyone dresses for dinner, the women wearing triple strings of pearls, sipping dry martinis mixed on the drinks trolley, the men later relaxing in 'smoking' jackets, using sugar tongs to sweeten the coffee, or Ovaltine.
The director Jamesine Cundell Walker, costumiers Rosie Bond and Kath Potts, and stage manager Chris Cundell, assisted by 'spirit' scene shifters Phil and Cari Marston and Chris and Melanie Winstanley, who thoroughly enjoyed entertaining us with high jinks between the action, had gone to no end of trouble to move us to a house close to Land's End, in 1935, with frequent references to trips to Penzance.
Congratulations to the stage carpet layer, who cut circles to fit its steps with plush burgundy layers to cushion a gramophone and the mahogany seance table.
The cast was so well matched to its characters, James Willstrop playing the smooth Charles with laid back ease, Amanda Ashby as Ruth, so elegant in those pearls, Lisa Debney as Elvira, mischievously ever-moving, and seductively swathed in diaphanous pale grey, and Helen Clarke, in her element as the blousy and assuredly eccentric medium, Madame Arcati.
Rachel Warren revelled in the role of the over-anxious-to-please maid, Edith, with the shrill Mrs Simpson lookalike Nicky Burrows and the ever-thirsty Paul Chewins, as those neighbours, Dr and Mrs Bradman.
Madame Arcati was invited to dinner in a spirit of mockery. That is the best way to enjoy the play.