The Attic Theatre, Stratford upon Avon, Wednesday 24th May 2023
Noel Coward’s classic comedy gets a spirited revival in this new production at Stratford’s cosy Attic Theatre. Adam Clarke and Sue Kent’s set design uses the intimacy of the space to put us right in the living room with the characters. Up close and personal with the cast, we feel part of the action.
Novelist Charles and his second wife Ruth are hosting a séance, as research for his next book. Inadvertently, the ritual conjures the spirit of his late first wife, which would put a strain on any relationship!
Director Jonas Cemm has his fine ensemble rattle through Coward’s epigrammatic dialogue at a rate of knots, which heightens the comic atmosphere. John-Robert Partridge is note perfect as the novelist-cum-pompous-arse Charles, while Rosie Coles is elegance personified as the long-suffering Ruth. There is excellent support from Robert Moore as the sceptical Doctor Bradman and Matilda Bott as his excitable wife. Den Woods’s medium Madam Arcarti keeps to the right side of caricature, bringing a touch of plausibility to the part, and Florence Sherratt makes the most of her largely silent role as Edith the accelerated maid. Katherine De Halpert is delectable as the pale and playful, ethereal Elvira.
It’s enormous fun, played with exquisite timing from all concerned. The supernatural facets of the story are bolstered by atmospheric sound and lighting design, by Elliott Wallis and Kat Murray respectively. Production values are high (which is no less than what we’ve come to expect from Tread The Boards Theatre Company), with the period and the other-worldly being evoked so effectively.
The subject matter and the dialogue may seem flippant or frivolous, but Coward has plenty to intimate about human relationships. For some, ‘til death do us part’ doesn’t apply. Perhaps there are some relationships we never get over.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Making a comeback: Katherine De Halpert as Elvira (Pic: Andrew Maguire Photography)