Tuesday 25 September 2012

Hobart in the midst of a "Blithe Spirit"

Today began Term 3 at University of the Third Age's  (U3A) Play Reading class.  I have attended this class every Tuesday during Term times now for just over a year.  It is great fun. We have a class of between 10 and 15 people on most days and our wonderfully experienced instructor Marlene chooses our plays.

Today she introduced us to Blithe Spirit  by Noel Coward.  This play was written during WWII in England as  Mr. Coward believed the Brits needed something to watch that was escapist and fun.

Today Marlene outlined on the white board how the stage was set up with a Boxed Stage set up.

Noel Coward worked as a British Propoganda officer during World War II and he was also in the secret service. According to Wikipedia it is stated he wrote in his auto-biography that he spent only 5 days writing the play.

At the time the play was produced it broke all records of endurance in London and then the Mousetrap came out and of course that has its own history of longevity as we all know.

Wikipedia also stated that  Mr. Coward based this play on Percy Shelley's poem "To a Skylark" ( "Hail to thee, blithye Spirit!/ bird thou never wert").

Rex Harrison (stock photo)

It was made into a film in 1945 starring Rex Harrison and Margaret Rutherford. It would be a great deal of fun to see this as the play is very funny.

Today we got as far as introducing the characters of Ruth and Charles Condomine.  Charles is a socialite and a novelist. They invite the eccentric medium and clairvoyant Madame Arcati to their house to conduct a seance.  The first act is spent in a discussion about their own pasts, their previous marriages, now both widowed and married to each other and Ruth asks quite a few questions about Charle's first wife, Elvira.

She is not jealous of her but merely quite curious as to what kind of a woman and wife she was. The conversation is very much held with good intent.

They are waiting for their guests, Dr. and Mrs. Bradman to arrive as well as Madame Arcati who arrives on a bicycle and presents as a very eccentric experienced medium. Somehow the words eccentric and medium go together. They all seem to spend a great deal of time as well drinking very dry martinis.

The guests arrive and after a bit of friendly chatter the seance begins.  Madame Arcati is suitably dramatic as she calls forth anyone who may "be out there".  The person who finally comes through from the other side is no other than Elvira, Charles' first wife.  She has just been introduced and everyone in our class is in quite a bit of suspense as to what will follow. However the hour's class was over and we have to wait another week to take up our parts once more.

So far all of us in the class are very much enjoying the humour of the play, Marlene's wonderful narrative about the history of the play is well researched and interesting and we love listening to each others portrayal of the characters when it is their turn to read.

It is a very happy, fun filled class and I will have to report further down the track as to how much we enjoyed it and what we thought of the story so stay tuned now until next Tuesday.


  1. No mention of which part you read Pam. It wouldn't be Madam Acarti would it?

  2. What a wonderful play to do. It is one of my most favourite films ever. My nan was taken to see it at the cinema my grandfather either just before or just after they married, could be just before as it was at Leicester Square so would have been when it was released.

    My nan fell asleep! I never did find out wether it was the film or something else?

    1. What a very funny story. Thank you for sharing it. Pam


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