Alex Foster and Alex Hopkins-MacQuillan’s Blithe Spirit, a remix of the play originally written by Noel Coward, offers a seamlessly modern update of the source material that left me craving more; the two hours run-time was filled with laughter. The original source material gets a fresh touch from the directors, making Charles bisexual and introducing drag queen ‘Miss Take’ as the mysterious medium Madame Arcati. The latest A2 Productions show, playing at the Keble O’Reilly Theatre from November 9th to the 12th, promises in the director’s message to be so funny as to make one ‘forget about the awful, awful stuff going on outside and get involved in a hysterical AND hysterical tale of a séance gone wrong’. And it delivered: for the entire run time you feel encapsulated in the psychic’s mirror ball, enraptured in the farce and delight that unfolds on stage. You are summoned from the cold, November night outside onto the glimmering living room of the Condomines, and it does not disappoint. 

Blithe Spirit is about the aftermath of an eventful evening with medium Madame Arcati. The hosts – Charles and Ruth Condomine (Michael Freeman and Siân Lawrence) – put on a séance as a way to gain research into Charles’ new novel but the ordeal accidentally brings back Charles’ dead husband, Evelyn (Danny McNamee). With strong-willed wife Ruth on one side, and the flirtatious Evelyn on the other, it’s safe to say that hilarities ensue as the three bicker. As time progresses, Evelyn’s ulterior motives become more and more clear. The play gives the impression of being constantly in motion, with the smoothness of delivery and swiftness of the laughter that follows bringing the stage to life. As Evelyn waltzes from chaise-lounge to chaise-lounge, a tormented Ruth storms after him (despite not being able to see the ghost), whilst Charles haplessly angers both of them. It’s a classic case of mixed communication, but the joke never gets old. The acting is divine and the delivery punctual. I’m as impressed with the acting itself as I am with the actors’ ability to keep a straight face through the constant barrage of hilarity. 

The star of the show is, of course, ‘Miss Take’, otherwise known as Alfred Dry, playing Madame Arcati. It was an inspired idea for a drag queen to play her, taking the character’s mystique and kookiness and elevating it to a dramatic level. The characters walk the line between comedy and calamity, and Madame Arcati is the resounding centrifugal force, enabling the action to develop between the tense back-and-forth arguing of the Condomines. Before the séance begins, she asks, ‘Will you all listen attentively?’ and the answer is a resounding yes: the performance is fantastic (even the occasional improv) and left me howling. From making snide, euphemistic remarks (‘you’ve heard strange noises in the night, no doubt, boards creaking, doors slamming, subdued moaning in the passages – is that it?’) to setting off the lighting like a mirror ball with the glamorous costume design of a jeweled pantsuit, it’s a wonder that directors haven’t caught on to the idea of involving a drag queen in this play before. It works incredibly well. 

As the play progresses, it becomes clear that an agreement is never going to be reached between the three Condomines. Their friends, the Bradmans (Ethan Bareham and Florence Purcell) can offer no resolution as accidents begin to happen at the Condomines’ home. The poor servant, Edith (Grace Gordon) is just trying her best to appease the household. With nowhere left to turn, Charles calls back the medium who started it all, and Madame Arcati is left to figure out the mystery of how to send the spirit back. 

You can tell the cast and crew had fun constructing this play. The sense of energy is so infectious you feel it in every strut of the bickering characters. You feel sympathy for poor Charles trying to keep everything together, despite this ineptitude at doing so. You can’t help but love Evelyn as he teases the two – his entrance, with him appearing above the audience and languidly making his way to the stage, is so much fun to watch. Lawrence’s performance as Ruth is the perfect portrayal of a put-off housewife and this culmination means it’s my favourite play of the season so far. 

This is a production company that has gone from strength to strength and has put on some truly remarkable productions such as The Dumb Waiter and Quartet (which was performed at the Edinburgh fringe), their experience and passion resulting in immersive, professional achievements. I would strongly advise any reader to grab a ticket before the play ends its run! 


Special thanks to Alex Foster for providing the tickets.