Friends Visit to Tolethorpe

Every year the Friends of All Saints visit Tolethorpe Hall to watch one of the Stamford Shakespeare Company’s productions. This year around twenty of us saw Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.

The play is a send-up of the sort of belief in spiritualism that was popular between the world wars, when people understandably wished that they could get in contact with relatives who had died in battle. The play’s plot sees a writer called Charles and his second wife Ruth, together with two friends, bring in a medium called Madame Arcarthy to see whom she might conjure up. They treat it rather as a game, but Charles’ first wife Elvira (who had died in an accident) materialises. Much is made of the fact that only he can see her, hence the conversations which exclude Ruth and threaten to lead to a serious rift between Ruth and Charles. Ruth, and then Charles, want Elvira to be sent back to ‘the other side’. Elvira wants Charles to die so that he will be with her in the afterlife, but he survives accidents. Elvira tampers with Charles’ car, but it is Ruth who uses it first, has an accident and joins Elvira in the spirit world. All the main characters want the wives to leave, but Madame Arcarthy only succeeds in making them both invisible to Charles, who declares that he will travel over water, which they cannot do, to get away from them. So the play ends with Elvira and Ruth wrecking the house. The set was c1930 Art Deco with ‘modern art’ on the walls and the production was slick. Next year, will we go to see a Shakespeare comedy or ‘The Importance of being Ernest’?

Michael Hinman.