The Semi-Circle
English Language Theatre in Basel since 1975

 

 


"An Improbable Farce in Three Acts"



In May 1941, returning to England after some time, Noel Coward was shocked by the grim reality of London under the Blitz and that the war had brought death into almost every British home.  With this in mind, and after his own apartment had been seriously damaged during an air raid, Coward decided to start work on a new script which he hoped would lift the spirits of theatre goers and provide him with a new hit.  He traveled with a female friend to Wales for a holiday and after just 7 days he wrote the comedic play, Blithe Spirit.


Blithe Spirit is perhaps Coward’s best constructed and most mature work and one of his funniest.  A fast-moving English comedy set in the late 1930s, it is a love triangle between a husband and his two wives: one who is alive and one who is very much dead.


As the story goes, Charles Condomine is a successful novelist who wishes to learn more about the occult for a novel which he is writing.  Charles arranges for an eccentric medium in his village to hold a séance at his home with his second wife Ruth.  Charles also invites his friends, the Bradmans, to attend.  At the séance, medium Madame Arcati inadvertently summons the ghost of Charles' first wife, Elvira, who has been dead for seven years.  This causes quite a bit of difficulty for Charles and his second wife, because his first wife is determined to wreak havoc on their relationship.


Blithe Spirit premièred on the London stage in 1941 and was an immediate hit, running for 1,997 performances.  It broke the record for the longest running production of a straight play in the West End at the time.


In 1945, a film version of Blithe Spirit was released starring a young Rex Harrison.


This classic dark comedy has been revived and produced many times over the years. It endures because of its witty dialogue and the bizarre and hilarious circumstances in which Coward’s characters find themselves.


The story of Blithe Spirit was also made into a Broadway musical called High Spirits in 1964.

In a review in the New York Times for a production in 2002, it was written, “Usually, the best productions of ”Blithe Spirit” . . . happen in regional theatres, starlessly, under knowing directors . . . “


Angela Lansbury was featured as Madame Arcati in professional revival productions in 2009 and 2014, both on Broadway and in the West End, where she received glowing reviews and the American Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play as well as the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role respectively.


We are looking forward to performing this fast-paced and spirited comedy for you this coming June!



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