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Theatre Review: Blithe Spirit ****

Joy Watters reviews an updated production of Noel Coward's 'light comedy about death'.

It is with Noel Coward’s `light comedy about death’ that associate director Gemma Fairlie takes her leave of the theatre in the hills. Written in 1941 to brighten up the lives of wartime theatregoers, Blithe Spirit with its depiction of marital battles while ghosts and spirits fly about may not sound like the stuff of mirth at first blush.

With a love triangle comprising Charles Condomine, the ghost of his first wife Elvira and his current wife Ruth, Coward acknowledges the unlikeability of all three wallowing in smug entitlement from both sides of the grave while craving love.

Fairlie has moved the piece into the 21st century with the Condomines’ drawing room now a groovy gleaming white box, a colourful set of modern costumes and the daft maid of the original now an idiot boy working as Ruth’s PA.

Writer and socialite Charles Condomine invites the local clairvoyant and medium for dinner, not telling her he is only using her to research his next book. He is up against it as Madame Arcati takes her occupation extremely seriously. Not least when she unwittingly conjures up Charles’ dead first wife Elvira.

The lovely mix of pride and incredulousness when Elvira returns is beautifully handled by Deirdre Davis as Arcati in a performance that hits just the right level of barminess and self-righteousness.

Elvira pops back from the grave in wilful mode, self-centred and wanting Charles for herself, her death notwithstanding. Barbara Hockaday throws herself into the role wearing that revealing scarlet dress as a badge of honour.

Fairlie’s take on the piece successfully brings together all the elements of the ghost story with the characters’ wistful longing for the love of yesteryear.

Runs in repertoire at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until September 29.

Tags: theatre

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