By Lorraine Browne
It was as much a smash hit then as now.
Noel Coward’s famous comedy Blithe Spirit (being staged by ECHO Players in Qualicum Beach at the Village Theatre) will lift you into gales of laughter just as it did when first staged in 1941 war-torn Britain. An eccentric clairvoyant, a persistent ghost of the past and a scheme that backfires with surprising twists and turns inject hilarious intrigue as the plot unfolds.
You’re settled into your seat when the curtain opens on a warm and welcoming parlour in an upper-class home. A flickering fireplace, sumptuous seating, a cocktail cart, fine art and an old-fashioned gramophone all help to set the stage. It’s cocktail hour at the home of fictional novelist and socialite Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth. There’s comic relief as their apprehensive maid struggles to please by following instructions to the letter.
The author has invited the incredible medium, Madame Arcati to conduct a seance in his home as research for his new book. His wife and close friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman are enjoying pre-dinner cocktails, then later gather around the table in anticipation of connecting with the spirit world. Surprising events unfold leaving Charles now to contend with two wives - one dead and one alive!
The outstanding cast is directed by the capable Linda Bezooyen who when asked about the play had this to say:
“I directed this show eight years ago in Kamloops. It is one of my favourites. Noel Coward wanted to give the Second World War Blitz victims a lighter, comical view of death and I thought with all we’ve had to endure over the last couple of years with Covid, it was a fitting play to present to our audiences here. We have a wonderful cast who have been working so hard all summer on this production! That’s commitment for you.”
Charles is played by Andrew Bezooyen who capably stepped up to fill a void just over five short weeks ago. His second wife Ruth, played by Maggie Bugg, is effervescent in her role, while his first wife Elvira, played by Wendy Alexander, is more than menacing and convincingly resplendent.
Attempting to solve the dilemma by sending Elvira back to the spirit world is Madame Arcati, played by the astonishing Judy Hipkin, who delivers a mesmerizing performance. Dr. and Mrs. Bradman are the affable Paul Churchill and Diane Korol, while Amanda Wagner is the unconfident maid Emily.
Costume design is beautifully reminiscent of the 1940s with detailed dresses and women’s hairdos of the era rolled and pinned. Madame Arcati looks the part from top to toe while Elvira’s draping and flowing costume is definitely something of the spirit world.
Hang onto your seat post-performance and be warned of a surprise visit from the spirit world!
All in all, Blithe Spirit is this season’s outstanding play not to be missed.
Tickets are available online, by calling 250-752-3522 and at the theatre box office, open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The must-see Blithe Spirit runs at the Village Theatre until Oct. 30.