Quarndon Amateur Dramatic Society (QUADS)
www.quarndonquads.co.uk

7th to 10th May 2008, 7.45pm

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The QUADS May 2008 Play was Blithe Spirit, a supernatural comedy by Noel Coward   Belper News Review

Blithe Spirit (1941) is a comic play written by Noel Coward which takes its title from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem To a Skylark. The action of the play centres on socialite Charles Condomine being haunted by the ghost of his first wife Elvira following a séance, and Elvira's continued (and increasingly desperate) efforts to disrupt Charles' current marriage. The play is notable for the comic character of Madame Arcati, the eccentric medium.

As with most of Coward’s work, Blithe Spirit is renowned for its dialogue. The following comment comes from Charles Condomine when arguing with his wife during a breakfast scene: “If you're trying to compile an inventory of my sex life, I feel it only fair to warn you that you've omitted several episodes. I shall consult my diary and give you a complete list after lunch.”

The play set all manner of British box-office records. Its mark of 1,997 consecutive performances in the West End was only eventually beaten by Boeing Boeing in the 1970s.

In his autobiography Coward claimed he wrote the play in five days during a holiday in Portmeirion, Wales. He wrote it straight through from beginning to end and only two lines of dialogue were removed before its first production in London.

 

                  "Blithe Spirit", the film

Blithe Spirit was also made into a successful film in 1945, adapted by Coward himself and directed by David Lean. The film stars Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings, Kay Hammond and Margaret Rutherford with Joyce Carey and Noel Coward as narrator. Unusually for the time, the film is in full colour.

Seeking material for his exposé about psychics, author Charles Condomine (Harrison) hires a medium named Madame Arcati (Rutherford) to his home to perform a séance. As Condomine, his wife (Cummings) and their guests restrain their laughter, the eccentric Arcati forges ahead with peculiar rituals and a propensity for clichés. Upon conclusion, Arcati is obviously concerned about a twist the séance had taken, although the author and his guests are dubious to anything extraordinary having occurred.
 


 

However, during the seance, the spirit of Condomine’s first wife, Elvira (played by Kay Hammond), has been accidentally summoned, and enters the house. The author, who is the only person capable of seeing Elvira, becomes both dismayed and amused at her sudden and unexpected presence. More complications ensue once Condomine’s current wife becomes aware of the ghost. Eventually, the author’s fascination wanes – especially when he learns that Elvira has been plotting his demise. But the spirit miscalculates and ends up dispatching Mrs. Condomine instead, after which the author is haunted by both of his deceased wives.

Arcati is contacted to rid his household of both spirits. Although she appears successful at first, it becomes obvious that one or more spirits have remained invisible in the house, and the plot to bring Charles Condomine into the spirit realm remains...

 

  

 

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