Blithe Spirit at the State Theatre

The Black Swan State Theatre Company has earned a reputation for quality theatre productions in Perth and their latest production Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward is no exception having opened to delighted audiences last Wednesday night.

Widely considered to be Coward’s best work, Blithe Spirit is playful and full of wit.

055 Adam Booth, Ella Hetherington, Adriane Daff. Blithe Spirit. Image by Gary Marsh
Adam Booth, Ella Hetherington and Adriane Daff

As research for his next novel Charles Condomine (Adam Booth) employs a clairvoyant on the pretence that he and his wife Ruth (Adriane Daff) are seriously  interested in contacting the after life. Despite his initial scepticism Charles is forced to acknowledge the flamboyant Madame Arcati (Alison Van Reeken) as legitimate after she summons the ghost of his dead wife Elvira (Jo Morris) into his home.

Unfortunately for Charles it appears no one else can either see nor hear the mischievous Elvira, who wishes to be reunited with her husband at any cost and seems unable to know how to return back from where she came.

Coward’s script was reminiscent of one of my favourite plays The Importance of Being Earnest because of its clever charm that sees characters miscommunication with one another.In Blithe Spirit the interactions between Charles and his ex-wife, while his current wife is in the room unable to see or hear Elvira, result in hilarious consequences that take their toll on poor Charles and his current marriage.

The entire cast were on the ball from start to finish of this long play, making it feel much shorter than the 2 hour and 2o minutes it actually was. Before attending I had read reviews that the first act moved slowly, but I believe the cast has worked well to tighten this up since.

116 Ella Hetherington, Adam Booth. Blithe Spirit. Image by Gary Marsh
Ella Hethrington and Adam Booth

Director Jeffery Jay Fowler has honoured the humour in the script, which is what I believe made this production so easy and enjoyable to watch. The actors didn’t hesitate to deliver their lines with the punch and bravado that was so often needed. The cast worked well together as a unit, bouncing their lines off each other and rarely giving way to an awkward pause.

High accolades must be given to Alison Van Reeken who stepped into the role of Madame Arcati at the last minute after former cast member Roz Hammond had to withdraw due to illness.

After only taking on the role a week before opening night, Van Reeken appeared on stage with script in hand. For the first little while she hardly acknowledge her script, but understandably as the show progressed into the second act she relied on it a little more.

Van Reeken should be commended for the marvellous job she did in the role especially given the short amount of time she has had to settle into the character. There were a few lengthy pauses through the show at times as she needed to consult her script, but these are easily excusable and I was extremely impressed how seamlessly she could perform with script in hand.

093 Adriane Daff, Adam Booth. Blithe Spirit. Image by Gary Marsh
Adriane Daff and Adam Booth

Both Adam Booth and Adriane Daff gave strong performances as the mostly happily married Condomines all the way through to their transformations into the headstrong individuals they become.

Booth and Daff had a great on stage presence as a married couple and helped lead the changes of pace through the show that kept the audience from tiring of any one thing.

High commendations should also be given to set and costume designer Bryan Woltjen, who’s set took my breath away a little when the curtain first rose.

Lightning designer Jon Buswell did a wonderful job of contrasting the normal day to day and the interactions with the after life through lights. Elvira’s ghostly appearance was considerably enhanced by the blue glow that stuck to her as she drifted across the stage.

I saw Blithe Spirit in its opening weekend and as it gets more polished as the season continues it can only continue to get even better.

Blithe Spirit shows at the State Theatre Centre in Northbridge until August 9.

Tickets start from $32.50 and are available through Ticketek.

Images: Gary Marsh Photography

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