Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for the London transfer of Richard Eyre’s production of Noel Coward’s comedy.
The Stage: ★★★ “Although Saunders summons some three-dimensionality, the rest of the production, while entertaining enough, has as much substance as a spectre.”
London Theatre.co.uk: ★★★ “Eyre’s production – and the wives themselves – achieve liftoff, literally so, in the second half when Anthony Ward’s set and Paul Kieve’s illusions provide a memorable comic finale.”
The Arts Desk: ★★★ “Richard Eyre’s intelligent production squeezes every psychological nuance and contemporary reference from this play, which it must be admitted ages badly with every revival.”
Broadway World: ★★★ “Yet overall, Eyre’s production feels effortful. With everything pitched at an hysterical level, the real comic gems get buried, and it’s hard to invest in these people as actual human beings, rather than amusing sketch characters. Worth a trip for Saunders’ spiritualist, and there’s plenty here to raise the spirits in dark times, but not a classic Coward production.”
The Telegraph: ★★★★ “There’s really only one reason to see Richard Eyre’s revival of Noel Coward’s minor, supernatural 1941 comedy, first seen at Bath last year, and that’s Jennifer Saunders. She is simply magnificent as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati who exposes all manner of marital skeletons when she inadvertently summons Elvira, the dead first wife of novelist Charles Condomine, during a séance.”
The Daily Mail: ★★★ “Director Richard Eyre could have taken a pair of scissors to at least 30 of the two hours and 30 minute running time, and the attempts at stage trickery were pretty amateur.”
The Independent: ★★★★★ “In this inspired revival of Noel Coward’s comedy, Jennifer Saunders socks us with a hysterically funny performance as Madame Arcati, the psychic invited round to supper for what she thinks are convivial, neighbourly reasons.”
British Theatre Guide: “This is a popular play that regularly returns to the West End. The current version is undoubtedly amusing and will please Jennifer Saunders’s legion of fans, along with those who are delighted by the play on seeing it for the first time. Whether it is one of those revivals that is remembered in years to come is more debatable.”
Evening Standard: ★★★ “Rose Wardlaw does a great slapstick turn in the part here, bouncing around Anthony Ward’s set like a rubber ball. But this amusing, awkward production undoubtedly belongs to Saunders.”
Time Out: ★★★ “Generally, though, Richard Eyre’s staging is only fitfully amusing rather than laugh-out-loud. It’s pitched awkwardly between farce and pastiche.”
Londonist: ★★ “Saunders does well with the dated script to bring out the humour and despite director Richard Eyre allegedly asking her to tone down the physical comedy from the tour in Bath — still camps it up too far otherwise. “
Blithe Spirit continues to play at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 11 April 2020.