REVIEW: ‘Blithe Spirit’ – Bembridge Little Theatre Club

I have attended performances of the iconic Noel Coward comedy a few times, but Bembridge Little Theatre Club’s version is definitely the best I have seen. Charles Condomine’s decision to hold a séance as research goes horribly wrong when the spirit of his first wife Elvira is summoned, to the horror of his second wife Ruth…..

The set alone is a delight – Andrew Wilson-Jenner and his team are to be congratulated on presenting a drawing room I would love to have in my own home: beautifully appointed and decorated (despite Elvira’s criticisms of her successor’s taste!) with perfect attention to detail – and some spectacular effects which I will not describe, for it would spoil the surprise for you!

The initial scene between the haughty yet slightly apprehensive Ruth Condomine, played with poise and grace – and an amazing ability to keep a straight face – by Jane Robert, and the ditzy, eager to please maid Edith sets the scene for the hilarity to come. Edith is a small role, but in the experienced hands of Libby Pike she is in danger of stealing every scene she is in: Libby’s perfect comic timing and hilarious efforts to ‘be calm, Edith’ are a joy.

Mark Entwhistle, Libby Pike and Jane Robert

Mark Entwhistle excels as Charles Condomine, the sensible gentleman around whom the chaos builds: at first totally in control of his home, family and social circle, as events unfold he becomes confused, frustrated and desperate; his twin conversations with his two wives, one of whom cannot see or hear the other, are perfectly timed for maximum fun.

Hanna Nixon as Elvira is another scene stealer: her acid comments, deft movements across the stage and hilarious facial expressions add to the comedy, as do her ability to sidle seductively up to Charles or peer at other characters disdainfully – and the other actors’ total control in the (literal) face of this is to be admired. I have never seen Elvira portrayed in quite this way – and that is definitely a compliment.

Dr and Mrs Bradman, played with aplomb by John Hammond and Ruth Anderson, may be ‘bit parts’ but in a show like this every character matters and they perfectly portray genteel friends of the Condomines: he a level headed sceptical medical man; she a chatty, rather excitable lady keen to see whether the séance will yield anything.

Jane Robert, John Hammond and Ruth Anderson

Much of the play’s comedy comes from the reaction of the ‘straight’ characters to the comedy roles, and in a production full of scene stealing comedy performances, Martie Cain must be congratulated for managing to walk away with the scene stealing bouquet as Madame Arcati. Yes, it’s a peach of a role, but Martie makes the absolute most of it from the minute she totters on to the stage. Her dance with a footstool, her trance, her rambling anecdotes, her sheer delight at actually encountering an actual apparition – even if she consistently addresses her remarks to the wrong part of the room – or even the wrong part of the body – are an absolute hoot.

The lighting, sound and backstage crews merit a mention in a play that requires so many quick scene changes and special effects. At the interval another audience member remarked to me on the wonderful effects. Having had a sneak preview of a dress rehearsal I was able to advise her: ‘You think Act 1 had great effects? Wait till you see Act 2!’

The volume of applause as the cast took their bows confirmed my own opinion: this is another triumph for Bembridge Little Theatre Club; another incredibly professional show and one of the most entertaining evenings I’ve had for quite a while.

Blithe Spirit runs until Sunday 15th May and there are still a few tickets left: book yours now on 07841 950261 or buy on the door.

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