Review Roundup: West End's BLITHE SPIRIT with Angela Lansbury
Noël Coward's sharp comedy of social mores, Blithe Spirit just opened at the Gielgud Theatre, starring Jemima Rooper, Sandra Dickinson, Simon Jones, Patsy Ferran, Janie Dee, Charles Edwards and Angela Lansbury, directed by Michael Blakemore.
In order to observe a spiritualist first-hand for a planned novel, writer Charles Condomine (Charles Edwards) and wife Ruth (Janie Dee) invite friends the Bradmans (Simon Jones and Sandra Dickinson) to dinner and a séance with locAl Clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Angela Lansbury), whom they are certain is a fake. That all changes when the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Jemima Rooper) is summoned - and overstays her welcome in the following days, causing a rift between Charles and his at first disbelieving and then jealous second wife. The feuding wives, ghost and flesh, hatch plot and counter plot to sabotage each other's and Charles' existence - but will they succeed?
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Billington, Guardian: The comedy is reinforced by the excellent Janie Dee, who lends Ruth an air of steely ferocity, while Jemima Rooper's Elvira is an unusually tactile and seductive spook. But it's the sculpted dialogue that gives most pleasure and it's a sign of Coward's theatricality that a simple line such as Ruth's statement about Elvira - "My husband has driven her into Folkestone" - can still raise the roof. For me the play's the thing rather than the return of a popular star.
Charles Spencer, Telegraph: The whole show is a treat and Blakemore's production, elegantly designed by Simon Higlett with spookily billowing curtains, splendidly captures the bracing heartlessness of the comedy. Charles Edwards brings out both the urbane wit and the vanity of Condomine, who doesn't love either of his wives nearly as much as he loves himself, and gets maximum value from the comedy's disconcertingly bitter ending.
Paul Taylor, Independent: "Aw, bless her" cooed the woman behind me dotingly when Angela Lansbury finally bustled on, to a burst of rapturous applause, in this West End reprise of her 2009 Tony Award-winning turn as Madame Arcati, Noel Coward's eccentric medium. It's a sentiment that the audiences now flocking to the Gielgud Theatre clearly echo.
Simon Edge, Express: I'm usually a sober sitter-out of end-of-show ovations but on this occasion I not only jumped up, I joined in the whooping. It's not just a treat but a privilege to have seen this Arcati and I urge anyone else to do the same if they can get tickets.
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: Dame Angela's first return to the London stage for 40 years provokes applause at her entrances and exits. One usually tends to associate that sort of thing with American theatres. A man in the stalls whooped her for completing her first scene. Had he expected her to keel over mid-line? Instead of patronising her for making it to 88, let us hail her vocal projection (in the stalls I had no trouble hearing her, despite much scuttlebutt on the internet that she is inaudible).