Monday, January 12, 2015

4 February - Blithe Spirit

We all really enjoyed Amadeus, and I was fascinated at how much funnier it was when read out loud than simply read!  It must be a wonderful film, and one I intend to watch sometime in the near future.  I was also delighted that a group of us will now be going to see The Merry Widow: I am sorry I cannot join you, and hope that there will be another opportunity soon to discover opera.

For next month I was hit by inspiration whilst listening to the radio, and I seem to recall someone asking for another Noël Coward soon!

Therefore, in February we will be reading ...

Blithe Spirit

The play concerns the socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who invites the eccentric medium Madame Arcati, to his house to conduct a séance, hoping to gather material for his next book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his annoying and temperamental first wife, Elvira, after the séance. Elvira makes continual attempts to disrupt Charles's marriage to his second wife, Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost.

The play was first seen in London in 1941, creating a new long-run record for non-musical British plays of 1,997 performances. It also did well on Broadway later that year, running for 657 performances. Coward adapted the play for film in 1945, starring Rex Harrison, and directed a musical adaptation on Broadway in 1964. It was also adapted for television and radio and has subsequently been regularly revived on the stage. 

The title of the play is taken from Shelley's  poem To a Skylark, ("Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert"). For some time before 1941 Coward had been thinking of a comedy about ghosts. His first thoughts centred on an old house in Paris, haunted by spectres from different centuries, with the comedy arising from their conflicting attitudes, but he could not get the plot to work in his mind. He knew that in wartime Britain, with death a constant presence, there would be some objection to a comedy about ghosts, but his firm view was that as the story would be thoroughly heartless, "you can't sympathise with any of them. If there was a heart it would be a sad story."

Margaret Rutherford (Madame Arcati),  Kay Hammond (Elvira) and Fay Compton (Ruth)

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