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Iconic comedy actress Jennifer Saunders is at Malvern Theatres this week, starring in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. The play is in Malvern as part of a national tour, prior to opening in the West End. As expected, the theatre was absolutely packed for opening night. In fact, it’s very close to being completely sold out all week.
Blithe Spirit: The performance
Laughter reverberated around the theatre as the unfortunate Edith made her unsteady way onto the stage carrying a tray of drinks. We were soon introduced to Charles and Ruth Condomine and their plans for the evening became clear. Dr and Mrs Bradman would soon be arriving to spend the evening with clairvoyant Madame Arcati to assist Charles with research for his latest book. Before their friends arrived though, conversation turned to Charles’ late wife, Elvira.
The evening goes on and with guests assembled, Madame Arcati instructs them all to sit at a small table. Despite his scepticism, Charles soon realises that Madame Arcati really has made contact with his late wife Elvira. In fact, Elvira has arrived in the room, and she’s here to stay.
That’s when things turn a little odd. Ruth and Elvira are predictably at each others throats. When Elvira decides she wants Charles to herself, a mistake creates even more problems between her and Ruth. Edith zooms in and out at appropriate times, trying to remain inconspicuous. Happily though, she has a larger part to play towards the end.
Jennifer Saunders in Blithe Spirit
Before Madame Arcati arrived on stage, I had made up my mind that Edith was definitely my favourite character. But of course, Jennifer Saunders was always going to steal the show. She was asked in an interview whether eccentric characters are more fun to play. She replied:
“Making people laugh is honestly the best fun in the world and I like people who make me laugh so it’s like doing a job you appreciate.”
From start to finish, Madame Arcati was a adorable eccentric. Her hilarious facial expressions and mannerisms were coupled with an intense pride in her work as a clairvoyant. Noel Coward’s play was set in a house in 1940s Kent, but Blithe Spirit remains engaging and amusing today. Helped of course by a fantastic cast. I could have happily watched both Edith and Madame Arcati all night.
What you need to know about Blithe Spirit
Blithe Spirit is directed by Richard Eyre. Alongside Jennifer Saunders, the cast features Rose Wardlaw as Edith, Lisa Dillon as Ruth, Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles, Simon Coates as Dr Bradman, Lucy Robinson as Mrs Bradman and Emma Naomi as Elvira.
The play is at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 1st February. Tickets are available on their website, although they are virtually sold out for the whole week already. After Malvern, the tour moves on to Bath’s Theatre Royal, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Richmond Theatre and then the Theatre Royal in Norwich. It will be in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 5th March to 11th April.
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