Charles Condomine, a novelist, and his wife, Ruth, have invited their friends the Bradmans to join them for drinks and dinner with a local clairvoyant, Madame Arcati. Charles is planning a novel about a homicidal spiritualist and wants to observe the behaviour of Madame Arcati during a séance after dinner. The Bradmans arrive, and the four friends discuss Madame Arcati, sure that she will be a harmless fraud. They are interrupted when Madame Arcati arrives, so dinner is served, and the séance begins. Much to the surprise of the two couples, there are supernatural manifestations: the table trembles, Madame Arcati falls into a trance, and Charles hears the voice of Elvira, his first wife, whom he loved dearly but who had died six years previously. Frightened, he wakes Madame Arcati, and the party breaks up.
As Charles shows the Bradmans out, in walks the ghost of Elvira, grey from head to foot. Only Charles can see and hear her, and he and Ruth immediately quarrel about her presence. The cross-conversation between Charles and Ruth and Charles and Elvira is exasperating to Ruth, who, believing Charles is drunk, goes off to bed in a huff.
The next morning at breakfast, Ruth is very cool to Charles and tells him he had had too much to drink the night before. When he insists that he had had a hallucination, Ruth attributes it to indigestion. The bickering continues until Elvira enters, carrying roses. When Charles sees her, a comical miscommunication begins, with Ruth unable to see or hear Elvira and feeling certain that Charles’s unpleasant remarks are meant for her. Ruth becomes convinced her husband is mad and tries to soothe him and go for a doctor. Charles, frantic to be believed, enlists Elvira’s help, and she moves a bowl of flowers around the room to prove her existence. Ruth becomes hysterical, not sure whether she is being deluded, is going insane, or is actually in the presence of a ghost.
Later, alone, Ruth visits Madame Arcati again, and is shocked and angered that Madame Arcati is unable to dematerialise Elvira. She also believes Charles subconsciously wanted Elvira back. When Ruth is rude to her, the spiritualist leaves in a huff. Elvira and Charles enter, and Elvira seems delighted that she will be a permanent guest. Ruth swears to rid herself of the ghost.
Suspense builds when, several days later, both Edith (the maid) and Charles have accidents: Edith because of grease rubbed on the stairs and Charles on a ladder that proves to have been sawn nearly in two. Ruth insists, and Charles is convinced, that Elvira is trying to kill Charles in order to have him for herself again. Ruth leaves in the car, which Elvira had booby-trapped for Charles, and is killed in the ensuing ‘accident’. The act ends with Elvira frantically retreating from Ruth’s ghost, invisible to Charles.
Charles calls Madame Arcati, who goes into a trance to try and dematerialise Elvira. It works in reverse though, and in walks the ghost of Ruth, now plainly visible, along with Elvira, to Charles. After trying all sorts of supernatural tricks, Madame Arcati is about to despair; the ghosts simply will not go away. Then she realises that it was not Charles who called up Elvira and Ruth, but Edith. The maid appears contrite, and Madame Arcati hypnotises her; and the ghosts vanish at last.
Charles, now alone, but not really alone, teases Ruth and Elvira about how much he will enjoy his freedom. With that, vases fly into the fireplace, pictures come crashing down, the mantel topples…and the curtain falls.
- Barry Cooper
- Tony Currell
Cast (in order of appearance)
- ‘Edith’ ~ Sam Pullen
- ‘Ruth Condomine’ ~ Helen Gallagher
- ‘Charles Condomine’ ~ Jaimes Cooper
- ‘Dr. Bradman’ ~ Stewart Hiorns
- ‘Mrs Bradman’ ~ Sian Cole
- ‘Madame Arcati’ ~ Julie Greenwood
- ‘Elvira Condomine’ ~ Laura Sims
- Stage Manager ~ Alan Bailey
- Assistants ~ Denise Currell, Simon Ellett, Barry Cooper, David Spear, Ros Brace, Graham Phennah, Neil Chamberlain, Tony Currell, Stewart Hiorns, Dorothy Morris
- Prompt ~ Alison Shepherd
- Props ~ Denise Currell, Leah Williams & Ros Brace
- Costumes ~ Heather Cooper
- Hair & Make-up ~ Julie Greenwood & the cast
- Front-of-house, Refreshments ~ Barbara Spear, Dorothy Morris, Heather Cooper, David Spear, Maureen Bailey, Neil Chamberlain, Val Hiorns, Janet Thissen, Lynne Turner, Doreen Davies, Geoff Davies, Tom Swallow
Welcome to our production of Blithe Spirit. It is always a challenge for the director to find plays suitable for such a small stage, with the right number of male and female actors, at the right age and for a family audience! For this production I was seriously considering a recent very funny play by a well known playwright and comedian. After the first act I thought I could do it by cutting out some swear words (quite a lot actually!!), but by the second act I realised I would have to rewrite the play. Thus it happens that over the years we have been forced to perform many fairly old plays. Moreover, we could probably get into the Guinness Book of Records for performing most plays with “Murder” in the title!!
Since 2003 we have been trying to perform some more demanding plays. These have been more difficult to stage and have been slightly more controversial. The audience response has been excellent, but we would value your ongoing comments to ensure we are on the right track. There is a guestbook for feedback on our website.
I would like to thank everyone involved in tonight’s production. The actors have been asked to learn even more words and perform more moves than usual. The staging and effects have also been demanding. Because of this we have really had to pull together as a team and we have also taken the (for us) very unusual step of splitting the normal director/producer role into two. We have several new members too and it was good to see everyone contributing their time and effort in areas other than acting. We still, however, need more members to join our friendly society, in all capacities, so please spread the word and contact any of us for details. I hope you enjoy the play and, if you do, why not bring a friend in the autumn? Help us increase our audiences and keep local theatre live.