Review: Blithe Spirit at the Sydney Opera House

Review by Charlotte Leamon

Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Blithe Spirit was glamorous, witty and captivating. Blithe Spirit is set in the lavish drawing room of Charles (Matt Day) and Ruth Condomine’s (Bessie Holland) high-class English home, which later deems to become Charles’ worst nightmare. As Charles writes his newest novel, the Condamine’s invite Madame Arcati (Brigid Zengeni) to perform a séance to learn ‘the tricks of the trade’. Close friends Mrs and Dr Bradman come to endure an evening of laughs. However, all goes haywire when Madame Arcati enters a trance and accidentally materialises Charles’ dead, ex-wife Elvira (Courtney Act) who taunts both Charles and his new wife Ruth.

These actors worked very well together, feeding off one another’s remarks and gestures in order to humour the audience. The maid Edith, as played by Megan Wilding, used her physicality and facial gestures to create comic relief and motifs throughout the play. Her fast pace, instructed to be slower by Ruth was a comic feature, heightening laughs from the audience and tension between characters as she would interfere with marital bickers. Day and Holland fed off each other well, with clear projection and intonation, but the true star was Courtney Act. To add drama and glam to the stage, scene changes would consist of musical numbers with Act lip syncing and dancing to singers such as Adele and Celine Dion. Act’s seductive and energetic persona added flamboyance to the stage as her dressing gown, glittering heels, makeup and jewellery showed off her glimmering, ghostly body.

The Art-Deco set designed by David Fleischer was not just aesthetically pleasing and appropriate of the 1940’s, but the furniture was placed intentionally. I was curious to see how the magic and ghostly movements of a séance would be portrayed on stage, however the creative team seamlessly showed floating tables, flying books and more. Lighting Designer Damien Cooper and Associate Lighting Designer Ben Hughes made the space truly come alive. Beyond creating warm lighting for the drawing room atmosphere, the lighting drew focus in areas where the magic was not meant to be seen. Furthermore, the makeup of Elvira was glamorous and beautiful, whilst simultaneously, (quite literally), highlighting her as a ghost. Direction by Paige Rattray was divine as she re-created comedy on stage with energy, music, lights and drama! Her direction encouraged the audience to laugh and be engaged in a burst of wit and absurdity, making Sydney Theatre Company’s Blithe Spirit a must-watch.

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