The Semi-Circle
English Language Theatre in Basel since 1975

 

Spring Productions 2017 - "Blithe Spirit" by Noël Coward


9, 10, 16, 17, 23 ,24 June 2017

Theater Rampe, Borromäum, Byfangweg 6, Basel


Director: Scott Holland


Cast:

David Cox             Charles Condomines, a successful novelist

  Melissa Magarici     Eliva Conomines, Charles first wife (deceased)

    Cathy Barker         Ruth Condomines, Charles second wife

      Mike Bray              Doctor George Bradman

        Catherine Matter    Mrs Violet Bradman

          Diana Zuger           Madame Arcati, the Medium

            Fiona Müller           Edith, the Maid


Producer:  Richard Brown         Programme


Synopsis

Charles Condomine, a successful novelist, wishes to learn about the occult for a novel he is writing, and he arranges for an eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, to hold a séance at his home with his second wife, Ruth, and friends the Bradmans. At the séance, she inadvertently summons Charles'first wife, Elvira, who has been dead for seven years. Only Charles can see or hear Elvira. Ruth does not believe that she exists until a floating vase is handed to her out of thin air. Elvira is louche and moody, in contrast to the more strait-laced Ruth.

The ghostly Elvira makes continued, and increasingly desperate, efforts to disrupt Charles' current marriage. She finally sabotages his car in the hope of killing him so that he will join her in the spirit world with an unexpected twist.

Madame Arcati is brought back to the house to exorcize the ghost of Elvira when the household learns of another psychic presence in the house which may have been responsible for bringing back Elvira.






Edith

Dinner is served, Ma'am.


Ruth Condomine


I sincerely hope Madame Arcati will not produce any livestock – we have so very little room in this house.




Charles Condomine


Try to see my point, Elvira dear.

I have been married to Ruth for five years, and you’ve been dead for seven.




Dr Bradman


You see? The moment I begin to talk about anything that really interests me, my wife interrupts me.



Mrs Bradman


It was thrilling, it really was. I felt the table absolutely shaking under my hands.




Madame Arcati


There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Mrs Condomine.




Elvira Condomine


I may be an illusion, but

I am most definitely here.



Is there anyone there?


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About the Author and the play


In May 1941, returning to England after some time, Noel Coward was shocked by the grim reality of London under the Blitz and that the war had brought death into almost every British home.  With this in mind, and after his own apartment had been seriously damaged during an air raid, Coward decided to start work on a new script which he hoped would lift the spirits of theatre goers and provide him with a new hit.  He traveled with a female friend to Wales for a holiday and after just 7 days he wrote the comedic play, Blithe Spirit.


Blithe Spirit is perhaps Coward’s best constructed and most mature work and one of his funniest.  A fast-moving English comedy set in the late 1930s, it is a love triangle between a husband and his two wives: one who is alive and one who is very much dead.


As the story goes, Charles Condomine is a successful novelist who wishes to learn more about the occult for a novel which he is writing.  Charles arranges for an eccentric medium in his village to hold a séance at his home with his second wife Ruth.  Charles also invites his friends, the Bradmans, to attend.  At the séance, medium Madame Arcati inadvertently summons the ghost of Charles' first wife, Elvira, who has been dead for seven years.  This causes quite a bit of difficulty for Charles and his second wife, because his first wife is determined to wreak havoc on their relationship.


Blithe Spirit premièred on the London stage in 1941 and was an immediate hit, running for 1,997 performances.  It broke the record for the longest running production of a straight play in the West End at the time.


In 1945, a film version of Blithe Spirit was released starring a young Rex Harrison.


This classic dark comedy has been revived and produced many times over the years. It endures because of its witty dialogue and the bizarre and hilarious circumstances in which Coward’s characters find themselves.


The story of Blithe Spirit was also made into a Broadway musical called High Spirits in 1964.

In a review in the New York Times for a production in 2002, it was written, “Usually, the best productions of ”Blithe Spirit” . . . happen in regional theatres, starlessly, under knowing directors . . . “


Angela Lansbury was featured as Madame Arcati in professional revival productions in 2009 and 2014, both on Broadway and in the West End, where she received glowing reviews and the American Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play as well as the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role respectively.


"Blithe Spirit" was produced frist by the Semi-Circle in 1984.


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