Noël’s ghostly goings-on are just terrifically entertaining
NOTHING is perfect but the Mill at Sonning’s Blithe Spirit comes as near as damn it!
NOTHING is perfect but the Mill at Sonning’s
Blithe Spirit comes as near as damn it!
Arguably you can’t go wrong with NoÃ«l Coward’s very clever script, but you can. It only needs one actor out of place or a couple of directorial slips to send it spiralling down.
Not here, though, absolutely not!
This reviewer is privileged to see up to 40 shows a year and there will always be a few duds — much rarer will be something which you emerge from thinking: “Just terrific!”
It happens about once a year, probably less.
Blithe Spirit is that moment. It sets up a fast, but never too fast, pace from the very beginning.
The play is a comic classic and director Tam Williams — Simon’s son — shows it complete respect while wringing every gramme of humour and pathos from it.
We are in Charles Condomine’s well-to-do Forties home in Kent for a seance meant to be a joke, but which conjures up the ghost of a first wife. Everything flows from that.
NoÃ«l Coward wrote the script in just six days but it has stood the test of time far better than apparently more weighty works.
Tam Williams makes full use of the Mill’s stage but always relevantly, never distractingly. The performances are charged with energy and, to risk the pun, spirit.
This is an ensemble piece with four lead actors and three only slightly lesser roles. Everyone plays their part with commitment — with honours shared evenly for Darrell Brockis as Charles Condomine, Phillipa Peak as Ruth, Finty Williams as Elvira and Elizabeth Power as a redoubtable Madame Arcati. Peak and Williams as Brockis’s wives are a delight in their interactions and manipulations. Peak is especially effective as a wife who has become tired of a shallow man. Williams’s “morally untidy” ghost of a first wife is hilarious with her seductions and wicked planning.
Power channels the ghost of Margaret Rutherford on speed; an eccentric free-thinking adventurer.
And Brockis careers on through all of it trying to shake off wives, women and real life itself.
The maid, Edith, played by Janine Leigh, is a seemingly irrelevant mechanical until the last scene, but she does enough throughout the play for us to believe the ending — which I won’t give away in case you haven’t seen it before.
So then: athletic, energetic, committed, funny, spirited and “Just terrific!”