Blithe Spirit Director’s Note

“A Talent to Amuse”
This was the reply that Noël Coward made when asked
what he considered his greatest talent. It was true
when he said it, and it is still true today. His
songs, musicals, plays, and films are still popular.
Although they seem to have fallen out of favor with
some, audiences still respond to his humor. Of
course his was a different time and place. His
attitudes and those of his characters seem foreign
to many of us. And it is certainly helpful to
consider a bit of context in order to enjoy Blithe
Spirit, the comedy that I am directing for July at
PCPH. In 1941, England was fighting the beginnings
of World War II. The German Blitz was nightly
destroying parts of Coward’s London – including his
own office and apartment. He took a short vacation
and decided to write a comedy that would help
lighten the mood of his fellow Brits. Because so
many people were separated by the war, and so many
were losing loved ones, he decided to use a
supernatural theme in a comic way. After its first
production, some were outraged that Coward would
make fun of death and the afterlife in such a
light-hearted manner. Soon however, as Blithe
Spirit began to set a box office record, those
objections were set aside. Many people who had lost
loved ones in the war were turning to spiritualism
to try to contact them, and Madame Arcati’s antics
put such actions in the context of the believable,
if not the commonplace. Noël Coward’s views on love
and marriage are as much on display in Blithe
Spirit as any treatise on séances, magic, or ghosts.
He has some interesting things to say about
relationships and moving on with our lives. These
are the subjects of the comedy. I ask that our
audiences not give too much time over to debunking
or decrying Madame Arcati or her practices, or even
the curiosity that drives our main characters to
ask for her services. Blithe Spirit is a comedy in
the best Coward manner, and is best viewed that way.
Today Noël Coward can be appreciated with an
expectation of amusement and an appreciation of
time and place. Blithe Spirit was revived on
Broadway last season. Angela Lansbury won the Tony
Award for her performance as Madame Arcati. In the
mid-1960’s, it was transformed into a musical
titled High Spirits. There are parts for 2 men and
5 women in Blithe Spirit, and I am hoping that we
have some adventurous performers who take this
journey with me. Join me as we call up the Blithe
Spirit, one of the plays presented during the
first season of the Greencastle Summer Theatre. It
will be fun, I promise you.