Ghost comedy so bad it left critic corpsing

PUBLISHED: 15:43 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

NOËL Coward s Blithe Spirit features several excellent roles for women, something that West Wickham s Theatre 62 seized upon with gusto in

NOËL Coward's Blithe Spirit features several excellent roles for women, something that West Wickham's Theatre 62 seized upon with gusto in their recent production, writes Mark Campbell.

This amiable romantic comedy with a supernatural twist sees Charles (Brian John) accidentally conjure up the ghost of his glamorous deceased wife Elvira (Pat Adams), thanks to the unexpected powers of eccentric medium Madame Arcati (Carolyn Taylor).

Although Charles can see, and communicate with, Elvira, his second wife Ruth (Janet Sharrock) cannot, which leads to a plethora of comic misunderstandings.

Accused of being an "astral bigamist", Charles is soon the subject of Elvira's murderous attentions. If she can bump him off, then she will have him all to herself on 'the other side'.

Instead it is Ruth who finds herself at the wheel of a sabotaged car - spectres in this play being able to cut brake cables with impunity - and winds up, at the climax of Act II, as a ghostly rival to Elvira.

Coward's speedily written comedy breezes along in fine fashion until this point, then suddenly stops and treads water until its abrupt ending. The comic potentialities of two undead ex-wives goes sadly unexplored.

But as a lightweight piece of froth it's entirely successful, a comment that could not really be said about Theatre 62's opening night.

Director John Heather had chosen his female contingent well. He was not so lucky with his men.

The best that can be said about Simon Waterfield, as Dr Bradman, is that he is no actor.

But Brian John, in his first (and possibly last) appearance with this group, appeared to regard the learning of lines as an unnecessary chore. Prompt after prompt reigned down on him, culminating in an unintentionally hilarious moment where he turned in his seat and exclaimed, "What was that?" to the offstage reader.

Coward would have turned in his grave.

Thankfully, the women were in a different league. Carolyn Taylor's Madame Arcati was an absolute joy. She lit up the stage whenever she appeared - knocking over a table or losing her wig just adding colour to her already vibrant character. And Pat Adams was a wonderfully sultry Elvira, drifting ethereally across the stage in her semi-transparent grey gown.

Janet Sharrock was the attractive yet slightly shrew-like second wife, Pauline Whalley played an inquisitive neighbour and Grace Cannell made an amusingly eager-to-please maid.

The next production at Theatre 62 is Dracula - The Panto from 7-12 December. Tickets: 020 8777 3037.

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