Touring – reviewed at Malvern Theatres
One of my favourite Coward plays and starring the incomparable Jennifer Saunders in the resplendently iconic role of Madame Arcati. It’s a deliciously comedic role at the heart of a madcap tale involving a rather smug, second time married author called Charles. He’s looking for a muse to help him to write his next novel, and psychic medium Madame Acarti fits that bill. He hopes to find her out as a fraud and sets up a dinner party with his wife, Ruth, also inviting Dr and Mrs Bradman.
As the evening unfolds, accompanied by incessant clumsiness from new maid, Edith and much suspense when the bonkers Medium is going about her hilarious business, one thing Charles hasn’t bargained on is Madame Arcati not necessarily being the fraud he hopes she’s going to be. The reunion with his late wife, Elvira is wholly unexpected too.
It’s Coward at his best and for the most part the cast do it justice. The pace of their dialogue and interaction with each other is almost always spot on and characters who might be easy to discount and miss in the grand scheme of things are brought to the fore subtly and successfully.
Saunders triumphs in the role she was surely meant to play, she brought everything to the character that I expected her to bring. I was not disappointed in the physical comedy she added, the exceptional delivery of beautifully crafted lines and her facial expressions spoke volumes.
Geoffrey Streatfield plays Charles so meticulously that it’s easy to see his wealth of theatre experience has prepared him to do the character justice. Lisa Dillon is quite stunning as Ruth, it could be such a benign role if you allowed it to be and she has done a sterling job, a real class act. Lucy Robinson also takes a relatively smaller role (Mrs Bradman), makes it her own and engaged me in every scene she appeared in.
Simon Coates is a great match for her as Dr Bradman, they were quite the comedy duo in fact. Rose Wardlaw provided many a laugh out loud moment as Edith the hapless maid, certainly an actress to watch out for as she really stood out for all the right reasons. Emma Naomi has wonderful poise and sensuality as the miffed spirit, Elvira, however she could have been a little more coquettish and mischievous. There’s a lot of fun to be had with that role.
Overall it is a great evening at the theatre. The set is sensational and lends itself brilliantly to the ghostly happenings. You’ll be sorry to miss this production.