Noel Coward’s dark comedy of spiritualism and ghosts. It was first performed in 1941 but is probably set in the late 1930s as there is no mention of the war nor of food and petrol rationing! It ran for 1997 performances which was a record until The Mousetrap overtook it. Staging this play presents a few interesting challenges, books falling off bookshelves, a gramophone lid opening and shutting on its own, a picture falling off the wall are just a few; plus two ghosts onstage only visible to one other member of the cast.
11th to 14th April 2018
Royal Russell Performing Arts Centre
Tickets Go On Sale Soon
Directed By: Peter Bramwell
Assisted By: Paul Hudson
Charles Condomine, a successful novelist, wants to learn the tricks of the trade used by charlatan spiritualists for a novel he is writing, and he arranges for Madame Arcati , an eccentric medium, to conduct a séance at his house in the company of his (second) wife, Ruth, and their friends The Bradmans. At the séance she inadvertently summons the ghost of Charles first wife Elvira who has been dead for seven years. Madame Arcati leaves straight after, unaware that she has summoned Elvira. Only Charles can see and hear Elvira and Ruth doesn’t believe she exists until Elvira passes a vase to her. Ruth, who is jealous of the wild and carefree Elvira, asks Madame Arcati to send Elvira back but only succeeds in annoying Madame Arcati when she tells her the real reason she was asked to perform the séance. Elvira makes increasingly desperate efforts to disrupt the marriage and in trying to kill Charles (so she can be reunited with him) only succeeds in injuring him and the maid Edith. Eventually she tampers with the car but her plan is thwarted when Ruth takes the car and is killed instead.
Ruth’s ghost comes back to take revenge on Elvira and, with his house in uproar, Charles calls Madame Arcati back to exorcise both ghosts, but only succeeds in materialising Ruth. With neither ghost too pleased with Charles, Madame Arcati goes through séance after séance until it occurs to her that Edith must be a psychic and is the conduit through which Elvira was summoned. After dematerialising both ghosts, Madame Arcati warns Charles that their spirits will still be in the house and he should leave immediately. As he leaves, the unseen ghosts set about destroying the room.
The Characters & Audition Pieces
Charles Condomine: A successful novelist aged about 40. Articulate but at the mercy of his wives both past and present, he has a misogynistic streak. Sceptical at first, but a believer when Elvira appears. As both wives battle for his affections, he prefers Elvira and is reluctant to have her ‘sent back’.
Ruth Condomine Elegant and sophisticated. Attractive and sharp witted but prudish (compared with Elvira). Age early 30s. Is jealous of Elvira and thinks Charles finds his former wife more attractive.
Madame Arcati Mid 40s to 60s. Very energetic (cycles everywhere), positive in a ‘jolly hockey sticks’ sort of way. Dresses eccentrically. Angry when she finds out her profession is regarded as a joke by the Condomines but is keen to put things right later.
Elvira. The ghost of Charles’ first wife. In life she was spirited carefree and sensual and although she has been dead seven years her ghost is no different. Seems in control of events until she kills Ruth by mistake. Loves Charles (in her own way) and is jealous that Ruth now has him. Aged late 20s to early 30s.
Dr Bradman 40s to 50s. A friend of Charles. Utterly sceptical about spiritualism and his unhelpful quips irritate Madame Arcati. Quite a double act with his wife.
Violet Bradman 40s. Naive. Unlike her husband she finds the séance fascinating. Tries to be intelligent and sophisticated but not very convincingly.
Edith The new maid. Dashes about everywhere. A peripheral character for much of the action, she is key to events later on. 20s to 30s.