Monday, 4 November 2013

Blithe Spirit

Perth Theatre
Four stars
When well-heeled novelist Charles and his second wife Ruth tell their 
whirlwind of a maid Edith to slow down at the opening of Noel Coward's 
psychic-based comedy, they could be having a word with Coward himself. 
Because, rather than the normal cut-glass gallop through the French 
windows which the play is driven by, Johnny McKnight's production slows 
things down to a stately amble that lends things a more serious intent.

As Charles attempts to cop a few moves for a story by inviting local 
psychic Madame Arcati to conduct a séance, he gets more than he 
bargains for when his dead first wife Elvira appears. While only 
visible to him, Elvira nevertheless wreaks havoc on Charles and Ruth's 
seeming domestic bliss, with Charles clearly relishing two women 
fighting over him from beyond the grave.

While relocating things from Kent to Perth doesn't add much to a play 
that simply can't avoid its poshness, there are nevertheless some 
quietly subversive touches that chime with popular culture's ongoing 
fascination with the dead returning in one form or another. The most 
striking of these comes in Sally Reid's Elvira, whose flame-haired 
countenance is offset by an equally vivid scarlet dress that gives her 
a strength and sense of self-determination beyond pure mischief.

Unspoken sexual identities too are in abundance. While Charles is a 
woman-hating user, Billy Mack's effete Dr Bradman clearly uses Helen 
Logan's Mrs Bradman as his beard, while Anne Lacey's Madame Arcati is 
free-spirited and sensibly-shoed. Only Scarlett Mack's delightfully ditsy 
Edith remains untouched in a show which climaxes on Kenny Miller's set 
with a bad-tempered and technically versatile flourish that finally 
lays its ghosts to rest.

The Herald, November 4th 2013

ends

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