Opening in 1941 and running in the West End London for 1,997 performances, Blithe Spirit is one of Noel Coward’s best-known works and our personal favourite.
So, when we discovered award winning Union Theatre group were preforming this piece at Christchurch URC, we purchased our tickets and headed to Solihull. This non-for profit amateur theatre company (any profit made from productions are donated to charity), have three productions planned for this year, Blithe Spirit being the first of the season.
This “comic play” tells the story of Charles Condomine an author, who in order to gather information for his next novel, invites an outlandish medium to his home to carry out a séance. Madame Arcati accidentally conjures up the spirit of Condomine’s first wife Elvira, who has been dead for seven years.
Elvira attempts to disrupt Condomine’s marriage to his second wife Ruth (who can not see or hear Elvira), causing chaos and commotion in the Condomine’s household.
Director Mark Firmstone and musical director John Gough have captured the style of Noel Coward perfectly in this production. Recordings of songs from the era were played, complete with crackles, whilst the audience gathered in the church, which had been transformed very effectively into a theatre setting. As the lights went down, John Gough entered onto the stage and played the theme from Blithe Spirit on the piano, this was a very effective and unique way to begin a performance of a play.
Blithe Spirit is set in the sitting room of the Condomine’s house, the furniture and furnishings used, together with costumes by Belinda Piasecki, transported the viewer into Upper Class England of the 1940’s.
Alex Butler is a very accomplished and engaging leading man; and gave a strong performance as the author Charles Condomine.
Julie Moore creates the character of the flighty clever Elvira perfectly. I enjoyed her scenes with Alex Butler and thought they had very good chemistry.
Jackie Justham as the eccentric Madame Arcati was delightful; her comedic timing was just spot on particularly each time Madame Arcati went into a trance.
Victoria Ellery Jones as Ruth Condomine, for me gave the standout performance of the evening. She has excellent stage presence and held my attention throughout the production.
This Noel Coward classic is an ambitious piece of theatre for any company to undertake, however Union Theatre delivered both an accomplished and entertaining performance fully appreciated by the audience.
We thoroughly enjoyed Blithe Spirit and look forward to future productions by this very talented company.
Blithe Spirit runs at Christchurch URC, Warwick road, Solihull from 26th – 28th April. For more information on Union Theatre visit their website.
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “Union Theatre are a talented company who delivered accomplished performances in this Noel Coward classic.”