Wednesday, 16 November 2016

"Blithe Spirit" by the Prospect Players
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
Noel Coward's classic comedy ghost story is exhumed with great style by The Prospect Players, a theatre group who I can't quite recall having had the pleasure of seeing in the past.
Mr Condomine, a writer, has invited medium Madame Acarti round for a meal with best friends Dr and Mrs Bradman to pick up some tricks of the trade for his next novel, but even though the night seems to have been uneventful, this is in fact far from true.
The play is split into three acts spread over three and a quarter hours, and while this does seem a long time, once the action starts, the time flies by.
The play opens with Edith the maid addressing the audience to let them know of the three acts and the timings before dashing off to serve the Condomines. Played by Danielle Hall, she brings an innocent sense of fun to the proceedings but she, as Edith, has a hidden talent which is revealed towards the end of the play.
Fiona Shore (Mrs Ruth Condomine) had a very natural feel about her acting and her role and really makes you believe the character. By doing this you also believe the relationship between Mr and Mrs Condomine. Lovely amount of stroppiness in with the hot and cold blowing attitude shown to her stage hubby.
Phil Ashford (Mr Charles Condomine) also has a free flowing style of acting; you feel comfortable watching him act. So comfortable was I that it had to pointed out to me that the character was wearing a wig. I never noticed until I looked at the programme notes! A lovely job of communicating with the dead wife, soon to be wives brought the comedy element to the play.
Vic Roberts (Dr Bradman) and Beverley Graham (Mrs Bradman) are another nice pairing with Mrs Bradman also adding comedy to the mix, especially with the interaction with Madame Acarti, who you really feel doesn't have a very high opinion of Mrs Bradman.
Val Petty (Madame Acarti) is undoubtedly the one all of the audience were talking about in the breaks and at the end. Brilliant characterisation and eccentricity, Val is a joy to watch work and has a canny sense of comedy timing. Pure magic to behold and so pleased that she decided to come out of self-imposed retirement for this role.
Helen Foster (Elvira) is another highlight for me as Mr Condomine's first wife, seven years deceased who is summoned to the Condomine's house, but not, as we later discover by Mr Condomine. Helen plays the part of the petulant, flirty and fun loving spirit so well. I can't remember seeing such a flirtatious Elvira as in this production and I loved it.
Liz Hagan has directed the piece in a way that gives a fresh feel, due to the flirtatious and pacy script and has brought the comedy to the fore.
The set is cosy looking and befits the stature of the writer and his friends. Designed by Graham Errington, you can see yourself being quite comfortable living in this designed room.
Loved the costumes. From the smart dinner jackets and evening gowns of the Condomines and Bradmans to the zany Madame Acarti outfits, the wardrobe was apt for the characters and a job done well by Eileen Crosbie, who also sourced the props for the play.
Supplying the lighting and sound for the play was the Bonington Theatre Staff. As they are in house they are specialists in this field and that shows in this production.
There were a few prompts for words but this is such a wordy Coward play, plus there's the need to nail the comedy timing, that the odd prompt didn't matter so much because this was first night, You also have to take nerves into the equation.
Apart from this very minor detail, i think these guys did a cracking job with a play that is not the easiest to produce and perform. They smashed the comedy bits and kept the pace up throughout.
Also must mention the very informative programme. Buy one and get enlightened on the actors and The Prospect Players group.
"Blithe Spirit" is materialising every night until Saturday 19 November 2016 at Bonington Theatre, Arnold. It's everything I ex- spectre-d and more!

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