The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild presents Blithe Spirit, a mystical story of communicating with the beyond. Lorenzo Polisena reviews. (Image source: Norm Caddick)

By Lorenzo Polisena | Lorenzo Polisena

Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit, directed by Megan Dansie at The Little Theatre, is a mystical piece. Beginning with dry martinis and bowties, the spirit world summons crystal balls, tarot cards and Ouija boards; a piece from the time of black and white abundantly filled with colour. Dansie’s spellbinding interpretation of Blithe Spirit truly does conjure more than spirits from the beyond, telling an entrancing story of apparitions gone awry. 

Blithe Spirit opens with an evening séance conducted by the town’s peculiar and eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, played by Jean Walker, at the home of Charles and Ruth Condomine. Mr Condomine, played by Brad Martin, a widower who remarried, faces the unfortunate spiritual resurrection of his first wife, Elvira, played by Emily Currie. Elvira’s presence, which can only be seen by Mr Condomine, intrudes on his marriage and causes constant fighting with his wife, Ruth, played by Miriam Keane. Elvira, longing to be with her husband in any way, is the cause of many ‘accidents’, with every living character needing to keep an eye open.

Pictured (left to right): Mr Charles Condomine, Elvira, Mrs Ruth Condomine (Image source: Norm Caddick)

Madness and mayhem are the cornerstone of Elvira’s story and the driver of the script. Madame Arcati’s trances, to bring forth spirits from ‘the other side’, lead to much of the story’s madness and mayhem too. The spirit of Elvira is devilish and sly, as she turns good to bad and life to death, in the unfortunate case of one character.

Emily Currie’s interpretation of Elvira, a mischievous spirit from the beyond, is a strong performance and vehicle for the themes of madness and mayhem which she often brings about within the story. Her delivery of Elvira’s charismatic guileful and devious attitudes in the mayhem she caused is as comical and as entrancing as Madame Arcati. The true and genuine star of the production is Jean Walker’s portrayal of Madame Arcati, drawing the audience in with her ability to provide the heroic spiritual saving grace to the story’s mayhem and madness. A strong, independent woman who is seen as a spiritual quack, she exudes enchanting eccentric quirks which generates much laughter from the audience. Wide smiles are seen with every entrance of Walker, capturing the audience’s attention and hearts. Madame Arcati’s unique character leads a life opposite of banal, and offers a laughing cure to any audience member.

Pictured: Jean Walker as Madame Arcati (Image source: Norm Caddick)

Immediately entering the theatre, audiences are thrown back in time with music reminiscent of early-mid twentieth century jazz. It transports viewers to the 1950s era of class and cocktails with crackly vinyl playing in the background. Just as a human medium is presented in this production, music is another medium, at times conjuring emotions of sadness and others to conjure the spirits by way of Madame Arcati.  

Lighting is an effective method to aid the story too. Simple and subtle blue lighting works well to differentiate and juxtapose the dead from the living. The Little Theatre, an iconic local location for intimate theatricality, serves well to house the personality, charm and quaint aesthetic of the set. Living or dead, costuming is a classical blast from the past with satin, silk and suave clothing from the 1950s, evoking a Bewitched Darren and Samantha Stephens aesthetic. 

Creative and captivating, ‘the other side’ brings vibrant life and liveliness with much missed laughter in the theatre. A perfect production for teenagers or older, who are keen for an evening to take them away from their lives and to hear the stories of the spirits.  

More information about upcoming performances can be found here.