Blithe Spirit – reviews of Angela Lansbury's stage return

Classic Noel Coward comedy revival starring Lansbury as an eccentric medium delights critics

(Image credit: Johan Persson)

What you need to know

A revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury has opened at the Gielgud Theatre, London. It is the first time the 88-year old Murder She Wrote star has appeared on the London stage for almost 40 years.

Lansbury plays Madame Arcati, an eccentric medium invited to conduct a seance at the house of writer Charles Condomine who is researching a novel on the occult. While in a trance, Madame Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles' still-amorous dead wife Elvira, sparking a feud with his current wife Ruth.

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Michael Blakemore directs the cast including Charles Edwards as Condomine, Janie Dee and Jemima Rooper as the duelling wives. Runs until 7 June.

What the critics like

Coward's Blithe Spirit is a comedy that still "startles and delights", says Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph. Lansbury brings astonishing energy and comic panache to her role and Blakemore's direction has exactly the right lightness of touch for this deliciously dark divertissement.

"The bickering menage a trois is exceptionally well played here," says Paul Taylor in The Independent. But it's Lansbury's "funny and endearing" portrayal of the batty medium that provides moments of hilarity and warms this sometimes cold-blooded comedy.

"It is Lansbury the audience has come to see and she gives good value," says Michael Billington in The Guardian. But Edwards is also one of the best comic actors on the British stage and Blakemore's skilful production lends an Ionesco-like absurdity.

What they don't like

Lansbury's scene-stealing belies her age, but the same cannot be said for this creaky old Noel Coward play with a whiff of misogyny about it, says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. "Blithe Spirit earns a standing ovation at the end: but for the return of Lansbury rather than for Coward."

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