Blythe Spirit by Noel Coward is called an improbable farce. It involves a married man who is haunted by the spirit of his first wife. The ghost attempts to kill him, thereby guaranteeing an eternal 'life' with him, but only succeeds in killing his current wife who also comes back to haunt him. Eventually, with the help of an insane psychic he manages to exorcise both. Much of the humour comes from the fact that only he can see his first wife so his second thinks he's going mad.
In keeping with most of Coward's work, the male characters are extremely well written but the female leads tend to be rather one dimensional. The only change from this is the psychic who is traditionally played as over the top as is sensible.
I must apologise in advance for the quality of some of the photographs that appear on this page. They were taken with a rather cheap camera too far from the stage. This is the reason for the overall fuzziness, particularly as the light was beginning to fade. The only ones that are OK are the first three which were taken offstage. Even then, Hilary is very thoughtfully sneering at the cameraman (me!)
Again, if anyone reading this has better quality pictures then I would love to hear from you so that I could scan them and post them up to the site.
This was the first production by HADDS and was performed partly to provide the initial start up funds for the group and inspiration.
As a feat of production effort, it has no equal among any plays that I have been involved in. The set, located in Helperby Hall's stable yard, was literally built from nothing, being constructed from a variety of sources. As can be seen from the pictures on display, the effect was stunning and a fitting tribute to the hard work of a great number of people.
Looking closely at the first picture to the left, the woman to the far left in white T-shirt and black trousers is Rachel, the producer. She is accompanied by Beryl the prompt and Mollie. Bill and Anne are the two people on the stage. So we had the set, the props, the location and mercifully fine weather, with the exception of a slightly breezy opening night; a couple of sandbags thrown onto the tarpaulin roof sorted this for the last night. All that was needed now was the actors to go with it.
I do really think that Blythe Spirit was be far the best production that the group has so far put on and I'm not saying this because it was the only play that I have appeared in, or to belittle any of the subsequent productions. Aside from the set described above, there was a very deep sense of community among the producer and the actors, particularly the four principals. There was never any worry that any one of us would let the others down.
At a personal level, I loved every minute of the whole production, from the first rehearsal through until the last bow on the last night. I suppose that it was a cumulation of the play, the other actors, the producer and the location but I can honestly say that I have never been as content during any production. (No, not even the seven foot goose costume can compare.)
But, hey, there were others involved and Hilary, Jane, Maggie as the other principals supported by Rod, Gill and Charlotte all played their part.
Maggie had a interesting problem to overcome since in the film version of the play, Margaret Rutherford played Madame Arcarti. By far the best performance in the film giving Maggie a rather hard act to follow. Jane as Elvira, my first and dead wife, was forced to spend the play dressed in drab grey clothes, with grey makeup and hair colouring, flitting around the set like some spoilt ghost child. Hilary playing Ruth had the trickiest role. In those scenes with myself and Jane, she had to unconsciously ignore Jane all the while becoming more and more anxious. Of course when Ruth finally dies, there was a quick change into her own grey ensemble.
As an aside, the grey costumes that Hilary and Jane wore had completely different effects on the way each looked. Very strange.