The genius of Noel Coward safe in the hands of the Ditchling Players
How privileged we are to live in the area of Sussex with the many local societies giving us so many great evenings out.
Friday evening was no exception when the Ditchling Players put on ‘Blithe Spirit’ by Noel Coward. Having performed in these types of productions,
I know only too well what goes on in putting on a show of this standard.
Noel Coward one of the most prolific writers of his time, wrote “Blithe Spirit” in six days whilst staying in Wales after his London office had been bombed in the blitz. It was produced in the West End shortly afterwards in 1941 as a light hearted play to boost morale at the time and give people something to smile about, something which it has continued to do through the passage of time.
The play centres around the author Charles Condomine who wants to research material for his next book and invites the local medium to dinner in the hope of learning “some tricks of the trade”.
Unfortunately things do not go as planned with skeletons from the past in the form of his first wife “Elvira” returning to taunt Charles with unfortunate results for all concerned.
The attention to detail was first class; the set designed by Ian Clayton was, as always, perfect.
The scene changes were executed very quickly and quietly by a well-drilled back stage team – Sara Fisher; Maureen Campbell and Judy Walker - under the watchful eye of the stage manager, SueHanna. Whilst the lighting and sound was dealt with very capably by Neil Iosson and Ben Carden, respectively.
I thought that the play was very well cast – Ciaran Kelly portrayed Charles Condomine so naturally I forgot he was acting, all those words and no prompt – amazing!
Karinn Grierson who played his wife Ruth was excellent in coping with the memories of Charles first wife Elvira.
I loved Madame Arcati played very convincingly by Dorcas Kalani, she was great in the part and really scatty!
Sue Blair-Fish as Violet Bradman played the part very well, her diction was good and I loved both her dresses and hairstyle.
She was supported by the ever-dependable Gerald Fleuss as her husband, the family doctor.
Edith played by Gill Pinchbeck as the poor stressed maid was very well cast.
Kate Taylor who portrayed the dead Elvira was amazing – her make-up and costume must be commended as she looked so ghostly!
Both Elvira and Ruth must be congratulated on their timing when only Charles could converse with Elvira. Her facial expressions, during the heated exchanges between Ruth and Charles were superb, she so obviously delighted in the mischief she was causing!
I’ve already mentioned the costumes; make-up and hair and Diane Burman; Dorothy Keogh; Catherine Robinson and Bethan Mitchell obviously worked hard in getting everything ‘of the period’.
My only slight criticism with the play - it was a bit too long - but the cast were so good in keeping up the pace that I didn’t notice the time.
To think a play written a century ago can still hold our attention and make us laugh in 2016 is a credit to the genius Noel Coward. The director, Jill Hewer, and all those involved in this production are to be congratulated.