Blithe Spirit, Norwich Theatre Royal review: Jennifer Saunders shines in Coward classic

Jennifer Saunders stars as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Nobby C

Jennifer Saunders stars as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Nobby Clark - Credit: Photograph by Nobby Clark

The latest revival of Noel Coward's farce Blithe Spirit has come to Norwich on its short UK tour of just six venues before opening in the West End and audiences are in for a real treat.

Jennifer Saunders stars as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Nobby C

Jennifer Saunders stars as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Nobby Clark - Credit: Photograph by Nobby Clark

It has a stellar cast led by comedy powerhouse Jennifer Saunders, best known for playing Edina opposite Joanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous, as the eccentric Madame Arcati, who is invited to a dinner party at the country house of novelist Charles Condomine as he is looking for material for his latest book.

What first starts out as a ploy to find out the tricks of the trade, as he sniggers at her behind her back with wife Ruth (Lisa Dillon) and their guests, quickly descends into chaos as Madame Arcati's seance summons up his dead ex-wife Elvira (Emma Naomi), but there is a catch as only he can see her.

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Saunders makes every second on stage count and from her gas problems after eating red meat at dinner, which left the audience howling as she wafted a cushion round the room to clear the smell, to her flailing arms as she went into a trance, I couldn't think of someone more suited to the role.

Geoffrey Streatfeild was wonderful as Charles as he tried to keep both women sweet, who clearly both wore the trousers in the relationship, and a particularly entertaining scene was the evening when Elvira first appeared and he is shouting at her, but Ruth thinks it is about her and storms upstairs after being so offended.


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Rose Wardlaw also proved there is no small parts but only small actors and stole every scene she was in as the scatty maid Edith.

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Lisa Dillon as Ruth Condomine and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit Credit:

Lisa Dillon as Ruth Condomine and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit Credit: Nobby Clark - Credit: Photograph by Nobby Clark

The whole play was set in the living room and the set was fantastic, especially when all the books began falling off the shelves, as if by magic, at the climax of the play.

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Blithe Spirit was first written in 1941, but Richard Eyre's revival shows that it still stands the test of time.

The show runs until Saturday and you can buy tickets at norwichtheatre.org

Lisa Dillon as Ruth Condomine and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit Credit:

Lisa Dillon as Ruth Condomine and Geoffrey Streatfeild as Charles Condomine in Blithe Spirit Credit: Nobby Clark - Credit: Photograph by Nobby Clark

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