I saw Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit in a production a couple of years ago, so why the rush to see this new production at the Gielgud Theatre? For me, it was the chance to see Charles Edwards, one of my favourite actors, as Charles Condomine, but for most people (and to a certain extent, me) it was the chance to see Dame Angela Lansbury return to the London stage for the first time in decades.
Despite her advanced years – she is eighty-eight, the same age as my granda was when he died – Lansbury is full of energy in her role as the batty Madame Arcati. Her ‘trance dance’ is almost worth the price of admission alone. She is very funny as this somewhat bizarre old lady, but she also has a welcome steely edge: her version of the character is firm in her convictions and sure of her abilities.
Edwards is superb, of course, as the man caught between the ghost of his first wife Elvira and the real person of his second, Ruth. Jemima Rooper as Elvira and Janie Dee as Ruth are both fantastic talents and round out the personalities of their respective characters; some of the best moments come when the two spar during the second half. Serena Evans and Simon Jones provide strong support, and Patsy Ferran makes a memorable West End debut as the unpredictable maid.
Even though this revival comes hot on the heels of the last one, it’s worth a look for the fantastic cast. I can’t imagine we’ll get a better one for a long, long time.