Midland Players’ Blithe Spirit – 21 September 2022, University of Sheffield Drama Studio
Review by Jacob Bush.
Blithe Spirit has been a staple of British theatre for decades and now Midlands Players bring it to the University of Sheffield Drama Studio. A lovely space – a converted old church – and it’s perfectly intimate for this enjoyable production.
Noel Coward’s classic play tells the story of Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth. They invite Madame Arcati, the village’s medium, with the hope of catching her out as a con-woman. She is, in fact, not and the spirit of Charles’ first wife who died is summoned which puts strain on his new marriage. The play is a little slow to get going but once Madame Arcati first appears the play is great, even if not packed full of laughs (there are a few along the way though), with believable and complex characters.
Jo Ellis directs the play. For the most part, it is well paced and she has helped the cast to develop fantastic characterisations. There are some long and silent transitions between scenes which could benefit with some music being added. Phil George’s set is fantastic and really roots the play in a very real world, despite the supernatural elements. Mary Newey’s costumes are also great, with the ghost costumes being particularly impressive.
Adam Booth leads the cast as Charles, alongside Erin Whyte as his second wife, Ruth. Whyte gives a heartfelt and passionate performance. Her performance is of a fully fleshed out character who is unlikeable at times when she is completely unsympathetic towards Charles whilst the audience can still root for her – her more emotionally charged scenes in the play really do tug at the heart strings. Booth brings a lot of charm and class to the production. He is a very likeable leading man, caught in the middle of a difficult situation. It is a joy to watch him on stage.
Ellen Hindley joins the leading trio as Elvira, the ghost of Charles’ first wife. Her performance is outstanding. She glides across the stage, really giving the impression that she is a ghost. Her chemistry with Booth as Charles is completely believable and the twist with her character really shocks the audience in the best possible way.
Lauren De Boer is outstanding as Madame Arcati. She is a completely natural performer at complete ease on the stage. Her characterisation is perfectly eccentric whilst never falling into too OTT and unbelievable. She is endearing and wins the audience over immediately and it is a delight to see her on stage. Alison Brelsford gives a lovely performance as Edith the maid and brings some light comic relief to the play. Mel McCart and Kay Brough complete the cast as Dr George Bradman and Mrs Violet Bradman. They both add a huge amount of energy to the play whenever they are on stage and it is a shame that we don’t get more scenes with them in.
Blithe Spirit is an enjoyable and fun evening out at the theatre. Be sure to get along to see Midlands Players this week and support some brilliant local talent.