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Blithe Spirit at The Mill at Sonning

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 30th Sep 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Spirits abound in The Mill at Sonning’s latest production - not least because The Mill has just won The South East Award for Most Welcoming Theatre 2016!

First night elementals may have spooked both the cast and the audience but Noel Coward’s endearing comedy continued on to conjure up some spirited performances.

Set designer Michael Holt, Matt Smee on sound, and Matthew Biss, who is responsible for the lighting, go all out to produce special effects for this evening of fun and frights which will have you both giggling and gasping.

Written by Coward in just six days in 1941, Blithe Spirit charts the course of events which occur after eccentric medium Madame Arcati accidentally summons up the deceased wife of novelist Charles Condomine.

Charles has invited Madame Arcati to dinner in order to research the occult for his latest book, but his smug scepticism, so well portrayed by Darrell Brockis, soon turns to annoyance when the ghost of his wayward first wife makes a play for him, with tragic consequences.

Madame Arcati is one of the most colourful characters on the English stage and former EastEnders’ Mrs Hewitt, Elizabeth Power, causes much mirth with her outlandish antics, and outfits provided by costume designer Natalie Titchener. Natalie also adds a nice touch by duplicating the ethereal spirits in a pair of hung pictures onto the diaphanous clothes worn by the grey ghost of Elvira.

As Elvira, Finty Williams is sultry, mischievous and childlike, even down to some impressive tantrums, but there’s a steeliness which is quite alarming. It is Phillipa Peak, as Charles’ current wife, Ruth, however, who steals the show. From starting out as strait-laced and sensible, if not a little unnerved at the prospect of a seance, she plays some spectacular scenes as her failure to cope with an unwanted guest she cannot see drags her down into moments of pure hysteria. A real tour de force.

Directed by Tam Williams at a steady pace, the cast is completed by his mother Belinda Carroll and his stepfather Michael Cochrane, and Janine Leigh, who makes the most of her part as the nervous new maid - though the sound effects of her hurrying about the house could be toned down a jot.

 

Blithe Spirit is at The Mill at Sonning until November 19.

Box Office: 0118 969 8000

www.millatsonning.com

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