At the Tower Theatre in Stoke Newington, Blithe Spirit has been staged just in time for Halloween. The show is all about wealthy socialites mocking those around them and then getting terribly bothered by problems that they’ve created. The Noël Coward comedy written in the 1940s has its audience and will probably continue to have one into the foreseeable future. But considering that I barely laughed once throughout the show’s over two hour running time, I can certainly say that I am not a fan.
Mr and Mrs Charles Condomine (David Hankinson and Anna Fiorentini) lead carefree lives and derive pleasure in ordering about their maid, Edith (Myriam Laurent). With not much to do, the pair decide one evening that it should be jolly good fun to invite the eccentric Madame Arcati (Alison Liney), a self-confessed medium, to their house.
Just like a jester or a circus act, the Condomines along with their friends, Dr and Mrs Bradman (Alistair Maydon and Louisa Shindle) are tickled pink by just how frightfully stupid they think Madame Arcati is. Why she must be mad, they all cry in their shrill voices. The audience then watches on as Madame Arcati performs her séance to connect with the other side and the friends can barely contain their laughter. That is of course until Madame Arcati does by chance bring back the ghost of Mr Condomine’s deceased wife Elvira (Sophie King).
Mr Condomine is the only one who can see and talk to Elvira and Mrs Condomine is increasingly distressed as she thinks that Mr Condomine is insulting her. This gag grows old very quickly. There are many other predictable gags about Mrs Condomine not knowing where the ghost is in the room and being frightened as Elvira plays tricks around the house. It was clear from the first few minutes of Elvira’s appearance that they eventually would want to get rid off the ghost, but the play meanders through an uncomfortably long period of time before things draw to a close.
There’s not much more to note about the production except for perhaps that the lights flicker when the ghost is about as you would expect. Would it have been more enjoyable with a different cast? I doubt it. Unfortunately, if presented with distasteful characters with so few problems in their comfortable lives that the appearance of a ghost is the height of their distress, not even an Oscar award winning cast is likely to make a difference. In the audience, the humour clearly worked for some and good for them. But for me it was dreary and disappointingly long.
Blithe Spirit is running at the Tower Theatre until 2 November 2019 at the time of writing.
Cover Photo Credit: Robert Piwko