Keynes Hall (King's College), 8pm, until Sat 3 Nov
Blithe Spirit, the first comedy production of the King's College Drama Society, combines an improbable plot with larger-than-life characters to fantastic effect. The premise is simple enough: Charles Condomine (Giles Pengelly) is researching the methods of the psychic medium Madame Arcati (Hannah Walker) for his next novel, but when the seance goes horribly wrong he and his second wife Ruth (Ella Mahoney) find themselves troubled by the spirit of Elvira (Sammie Brain), his late first wife. Although not without its serious moments and a sharp look at the difficulties of conjugal relations, all is played for laughs; considering the age of the script, this works remarkably well.
There were certainly several belly-laughs to be had; whilst some were derived from the accomplished script and wit of Noel Coward, plenty were due entirely to the energy and activity of the cast. The controlled inelegance of bumbling housemaid Edith (director Emma Bourne) set the fast pace of the play right from the very beginning, although it unfortunately started to flag by the conclusion as the jokes and physicality both died down. Dr (Dan Eastment) and Mrs (Clementine Hollyer) Bradman were strong supporting characters with a good dual dynamic, and emphasised that this is a play as much about marriage as it is about the supernatural. Mahony in particular was scarily good, fulfilling all the varied elements of her role as the second Mrs Condomine and at times showing herself to be genuinely terrifying, not as a supernatural being but as a vexed wife and powerful, independent woman; combined and completely contrasting with Brain's sinister languid appeal, it was easy to see Condomine as a man torn between alternatives worrying and attractive in equal measure.
The restriction of the use of music to plot devices allows the language, and the cast dynamics, to shine. At times Pengelly's performance seemed lacking, falling into the unfortunate middle ground between the cool control of his wives and the wonderfully violent exuberance of Walker, and never quite sure which style was preferred; yet the production was strong enough that the overall characterisation remained solid. Some lines fell flat, but they were skated over without any hindrance to the flow of the play; equally, none of the first-night hiccups of lighting and lines were so great as to be without resolution. It can be difficult to reproduce supernatural effects on a low budget; it says much for the cast that they were able to do without these effects and nevertheless retain all of the drama and high emotion.
If timing is the key to comedy, the positioning of this play in the theatrical calendar is just right. Following hot on the heels of Halloween, and in a perfect position to beat off the Week 5 Blues, this show is the perfect way to start your evening on a high.
Ashley Chhibberblog comments powered by Disqus
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