Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit has returned to its home of the Theatre Royal Bath after touring the UK. This production was hailed a success at its opening night back in June and is now set to head to the West End.
The story follows Charles and his second wife Ruth as they invite clairvoyant Madame Arcati round for a séance as research for Charles’ new book. Instead of conjuring up a random ghoul for the night, Madame Arcati accidentally brings back Charles’ first wife Elvira. This, as you can imagine, causes complications. But this is just the beginning…
Comedy comes in all forms from some witty one liners, to the maid Edith’s haphazard manner, but it’s Saunders that steals the show. Her physical characterisation of Madam Arcarti is subtle yet hilarious with her sandwich excitement and shock when she succeeds at contacting the dead. She is perfect in the role, complete with sturdy shoes and brown cardigans to start and ending her trances sporting turban, beads and floaty dressing gown.
Saunders aside the rest of the cast are strong, particularly Edith the maid, played by Rose Wardlaw whose comic timing stole scenes and generated some of the biggest laughs of the night. Leading man and wife of two Charles, played by Geoffrey Streatfeild was fantastic and stood strong as the plot and characters whirled around him, desheviling him as the days went on.
This play still managed to hold onto darker moments of a failing marriage, emotional struggles and revelations of betrayal which balance the mayhem of connecting with the dead through a little girl from the 1880s with a head cold.
The set is gorgeous with colours and patterns everywhere and books from floor to ceiling, it also contains some hidden features which teamed with an unexpected plot twist make for a memorable ending.
This fizzy and refreshing revival of a classic tale is worth seeing for Saunders alone. It is easy to see that she is in her element in this role as she fills her handbag with cucumber sandwiches and announces that “Cycling stimulates me”.