It’s notoriously difficult to play comedy in the round because the element of surprise is often lost when characters have to make entrances long before they’re seen by the entire house.
This is true to a certain extent in the Royal Exchange’s new production of Blithe Spirit, last performed at the venue in 1992. The problem is largely exacerbated by swift entrances although confusingly some of the characters leave by different exits.
Noel Coward’s improbable, but highly amusing plot, is sprinkled with witty one-liners and Liz Ascroft’s deco set has delightful surprises for the finale.
The undoubted star of the show is Nelly Harker who is a superb Elvira, the late lamented first Mrs Condomine. She may not wear the usual floaty frock associated with her ghostly character but she’s perfect for the period and delivers her lines with exactly the right venom. Her scenes with Charles, Milo Twomey, get the biggest laughs.
Suranne Jones plays second wife Ruth who looks the part but occasionally struggles with the posh accent. Initially, Annette Badland (as Madame Arcati) was frequently inaudible but makes a remarkable recovery in the second half.
Award-winning Sarah Frankcom directs this spirited romp.