Review: BLITHE SPIRIT at Shaw Festival

Still Bewitching Audiences

By: Jul. 27, 2023
Review: BLITHE SPIRIT at Shaw Festival

The  perennial festival favorite BLITHE SPIRIT is making a welcome to return to the Shaw Festival stage after 30 years. The result is a breezy romp that is sure to delight, thanks to the fine casting showcasing some of the company's best players.

Noel Coward's comedy finds the English elite poking fun at the supernatural, only to be bewitched by an honest to goodness ghost. Written in 1941 at a time when the OUIJA board and living room seances were the fad, Coward capitalizes on the ghost element to create a entrancing farce. In a ruse to elicit some new fodder for his latest novel, Charles enlists the aid of  the local medium, Madame Arcati. Charles and his present wife Ruth host the seance party, inviting friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman. Silliness ensues but Arcati actually conjures up the ghost of Charles' dead first wife, Elvira. But the crux is that  only Charles can see her and she refuses to leave.

Coward's writing is droll and shows true English restraint in it's commentary. But the larger than life Madame Arcati and flitting green ghost of a wife Elvira add a zany quality that strikes a perfect balance between the  other worldly antics disrupting an otherwise normal country home.

David Adams anchors the play with such conviction and awkward bluster that it's impossible not to love his note perfect portrayal of Charles. Adams is not afraid of physical comedy and his exasperation with his dead wife's behavior is beguiling.

Shaw Festival favorite Deborah Hay gets a jab at the juicy Madame Arcati. Her slight figure is topped a mop of wild reddish/gray curls and nimble posturing. This medium is not cut from the cloth of octogenarians, but rather a madwoman of middle age. Her sprite performance is comical as she dances, faints, screeches and bellows through her trances.

Review: BLITHE SPIRIT at Shaw Festival
Julia Course as Elvira

Julia Course is simply marvelous as the ghostly Elvira, traipsing around in her gossamer green gown, green lipstick and a blondish green wig. Fashioned as a young Barbara Stanwick look alike, Course appears to be having a grand time haunting her former home and driving her husband mad.

Donna Soares is the pathetic second wife  Ruth who is driven mad as her husband speaks to invisible figures and appears to lose all sense of reason. Soares is essentially the "straight man" among a group of absurd players and does a fine job a maintaining her cool before she ultimately loses control.

Katherine Gauthier found many laughs as the ditzy housekeeper who holds  a deep secret. David Adams and Jenny L. Wright are the befuddled Bradmans, who are in on the seance, but are clueless about Elvira's return.

The massive set by James Lavoie is resplendent in a monochromatic muted  emerald green from top to bottom. A clever touch is also costuming Elvira in green,  which essentially allows her to meld into the room without being conspicuous. Lavoie's costumes take on a fun, edgy quality especially with large prints for the men's formal and sleep wear.

Director Mike Payette guides the play with a light but deft hand. The text elicits the laughs for the majority of the time, save for the over the top behavior if Madame Arcati and nimble  mental breakdown by Adams. There is just the right amount of magic when Elvira is around, and of course the ending is full of fabulous on stage witchcraft 

BLITHE SPIRIT plays the Festival Theatre of the Shaw Festival in Niagara in the Lake through October 8, 2023. Contact for more information


Review: SIX THE MUSICAL at Royal Alexandra Theatre Photo
Review: SIX THE MUSICAL at Royal Alexandra Theatre

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SIX THE MUSICAL Extends in Toronto Until February 11, 2024 Photo
SIX THE MUSICAL Extends in Toronto Until February 11, 2024

The Canadian production of SIX The Musical will extend its run until February 11, 2024. Get more event and ticket information here!

COC and NAC Commission EMPIRE OF WILD From Ian Cusson and Cherie Dimaline Photo
COC and NAC Commission EMPIRE OF WILD From Ian Cusson and Cherie Dimaline

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) and National Arts Centre (NAC) have officially co-commissioned Empire of Wild, an imaginative and enthralling new mainstage opera from composer Ian Cusson and librettist Cherie Dimaline that centres the Georgian Bay Métis community at the heart of its story. Learn more about the opera here!

DanceWorks Performs SaMel Tanzs CHAMPIONESS in November Photo
DanceWorks Performs SaMel Tanz's CHAMPIONESS in November

DanceWorks has announced the world premiere of SaMel Tanz’s CHAMPIONESS, a captivating performance that combines boxing, contemporary, street, and Latin dance to explore notions of identity and mental health.

From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artp... Michael Rabice">(read more about this author)


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