4 June, 2019

Lots of ghostly goings-on as Blithe Spirit opens this week

The Noël Coward favourite, classic comedy, Blithe Spirit opens at Pitlochry Festival Theatre this week, Thursday, 6 June, full of mystic mischief and madcap marital mayhem, and on hot on the heels of the feel-good fanfare of Summer Holiday. Such is the rollercoaster of repertory, unique to Pitlochry.

A supernatural ménage à trois, Blithe Spirit was the most successful, longest-running hit of Coward's career which he described as a light comedy about death – not necessarily appropriate considering it opened at a time when the audience had to walk in, over planks to cross rubble from a recent WWII bombing raid. But Coward had the indomitable insight to recognise blitzed-out Londoners needed something entertaining and fun; laughter in the dark times to whisk them away from present day disasters. Something Gemma has been excited to bring into the present day, to provide 21st century escapism when we’re just as keen to get away from reality for a while.

Gemma tells us:

Reading it again, in preparation for directing it this Summer, I was immediately struck by how relatable the characters still are. We all know an Elvira: sexy, attention-seeking and childish – the life and soul of the party. We’ve also known a Charles: selfish, privileged and always playing the victim. He is a man who has always been allowed to get away with things because he is clever, witty and charming.  But he’s also a liar and a cheat.

That’s what’s so wonderful about this story, the three main characters – including poor, uptight Ruth – are so deliciously unlikeable.

As Gemma highlights, not much has really changed between the forties and now. “There’s still golf and dinner parties and large quantities of gin!”

While the Pitlochry Festival Theatre production is faithfully Coward’s script, there are plenty of surprises and ghostly 'goings-on', the setting has been updated to allow audiences to recognise how these caricatures continue through the ages; they not just stuck in wartime Britain.

The film version of Blithe Spirit memorably starred Rex Harrison as celebrated and charming novelist, Charles Condomine, and Margaret Rutherford as the mystical - if somewhat dotty - Madame Arcati played in Pitlochry by Deirdre Davis, star of the 2018 Season and a familiar face from TV’s River City, in which she played Eileen Donachie for 13 years. Ali Watt - Hector MacDonald (and his sister!) in the much-acclaimed, CATS Best Play award-winning The Monarch of the Glen - plays Charles; multi-award-winning actor and Pitlochry favourite, Claire Dargo, having recently toured with Sydney Opera House, as well as appearing in Doctors, Shetland and Channel 4’s Catastrophe, will be playing tense and troubled wife, Ruth, while Barbara Hockaday, composer and musical director as well as actor - already delighting Summer Holiday audiences with her comedic performance as Stella - takes on the supernatural, sultry Elvira.

This is pure Coward at his nonchalant and sardonic best. As Gemma says:

“I’d like to think all three of them get their come-uppance at the end, and as an audience we are satisfied with their fate. They get what they deserve. But I also hope that the play sends us home to be a little bit nicer to our partners, spouses and loved ones. You never know, they might come back to haunt you!”

Book your tickets now from the Box Office team on 01796 484 626, or click here to buy online.

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