The film was different from the play
The film was different from the play

Blithe Spirit. Axbridge Town Hall.

Noel Coward’s light comedy written in six days in North Wales during the war was recreated in the confined portals of Axbridge Town Hall by the community’s drama group with spirit and commitment.

Directed by Phil Saunders the play was a showcase for some of the town’s actors to sparkle – and sparkle they did. Sarah Kendall as Ruth had the cut glass vowels and acid lines that can mortally wound a chap at 50 paces. Her husband played by Peter Honeyands was the perfect foil being the exact opposite – managing to insult Ruth without meaning to and spending a lot of time saying sorry. The duo created a relationship for the audience to identify with in a series of set piece arguments containing an abundance of truisms about relationships, marriage and insane jealousy.

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Divorce yourselves from the David Lean film, as the drama stays within the drawing room of the Condamine’s country home where Charles inadvertently is caught up in a war of wills between his ex-wife Elvira and his current wife Ruth following a séance. Lean also altered the ending of the play trimming its plot and bringing it to a conclusion slightly quicker and arguably more successfully than the original script.

The town hall was neatly converted into a theatre by Axbridge Community Theatre complete with tables, chairs and French windows opening onto a garden created by a behind-the-scenes team of Dave Moore and David Parkin while the drama was produced by John Kendall.

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Sarah Kendall kept the entire production on course with the ease of a pre-dinner gin and tonic while her uncomfortably abrupt maid played by Charmaine Fulbrooke added unfashionable laughter over the problems with servants.

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Anna Hind as the bitchy Elvira in her silver gown bitched and chipped away at her husband’s new relationship. I would have paid good money to see her have a fight with Ruth as I’m not sure who would come out on top. The acidic Queen of the drinks cabinet or the Wagnarian warrior with her flame red hair and frightening vase smashing routine.

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Sarah Duncan as the batty Mrs Bradman enjoyed herself in the sparkling 1940s comedy of marital manners – and she just about managed to keep her wig on during the seance scene. Her husband Dr Bradman (Robin Mace) was so convincing as the family medic I was tempted to ask him about my hormonal issues.

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While Madame Arcadi played by Wendy Mace appeared at times to be looking into her crystal ball for her lines such were the gaps between her sentences, although I think it was all part of her idiosyncratic character that triumphed in the end as she pushed the drama to its improbable conclusion.

The play continues until Saturday.

Miranda Cornwallis

Four Stars