Performed March 25th to 27th 2009
By REBECCA DIXON hexham-courant.co.uk
A SPOOKY evening of murderous entertainment was in store for anyone who
went to see the latest offering from Riding Mill Drama Club last week.
Blithe Spirit was the choice for this season - a play the club has done twice previously in the last 57 years.
Set in the 19305, the Noel Coward play sees a young author inviting a medium to dinner, for what he thinks is a purely methodical way of observing her techniques for his next book.
But things take a turn for the worse when his former wife's ghost is conjured up and refuses to leave.
A series of twists and turns in the plot see several unsuccessful murder attempts from the first wife, who wants her former husband to join her on the other side.
The result is a second dead wife, who later also comes by in spirit form to hilarious effect.
The whole play descends into disorder until the two wives are eventually sent back to whence they came by the sweet-voiced singing of the scullery maid.
A brilliant script is performed with aplomb by a talented cast.
Coward's wordy style gave the Riding Mill actors plenty to get their teeth into and sometimes their tongues twisted around - but only once or twice.
Overall they did a magnificent job of learning the heavy script and not once did the audience seem to nod off, Facial expressions, hand gestures and general deportment gave each character a unique style and the costumes were very effective.
An ornate set showed plenty of period pieces, although the scene changes were a little tiresome and drawn out.
The choice of setting was a central platform that split the audience down the middle catwalk style.
The intimacy this created was wonderful, really inviting the audience to scrutinise every detail of the production.
The complexities of working such a stage are plentiful and full credit goes to the production team for excellent staging and ensuring that not once was an actor left with their back to the audience for any length of time.
The suave and sophisticated role of Charles was perfectly filled by Shaun Fenwick, who gave great contrast between the comic and tortured sides of his character.
Liesl Allcock was an ethereal beauty in a glamorous floating green gown and glittering accessories. She floated around the set in the most ghost-like fashion a human can muster, and it was easy to image the cold breeze created by the touch of her hand on Charles's cheek. Her petulant moments gave relief from the more seductive side to her character of Elvira.
Meanwhile Pat O'Donovan was a formidable Ruth - every inch of her the house proud and sensible second wife.
Dr and Mrs Bradman were well played by Ian Lockey and Jean Buckley. Both were very funny, Jean bringing out the dizzier side to the doctor’s wife and Ian's portraying the sceptical nature of the doctor with every raise of his eyebrows.
But one of the best performances on the night was from Anne Lawrence, who could not have entertained the audience more with her eccentric rendition of the psychic Madame Arcati. Some hilarious wafting and dancing around the set was complemented by some excellent acting, and her outfits were as bright and out-there as her performance.
The only criticism, however small it may be, is that the cast could do with waiting until applause or laughter has died down before beginning their next line. Some very funny moments were cut short and following lines lost as they rushed on ahead.
But on the whole, an absolutely entertaining evening of great acting was rounded off with some extra special effects, including a falling chandelier and a crashing sideboard, all which earned the cast and crew a well deserved and lengthy applause.