A ghostly spirit comes back from the dead in surprisingly mischievous form in Noel Coward’s 1941 comedy of supernatural shenanigans.
Purely in the interests of research for his latest novel, wealthy writer and once widowed Charles Condomine (a suave Robert Bathurst) has invited local psychic Madame Arcati to conduct a séance in the plush Kent residence he now shares with his no-nonsense second wife, Ruth (Spooks’ Hermione Norris almost unrecognisable in a sleek red dress and wavy blonde hair).
But despite his cynicism, he gets much more than he bargained for when the woman he considers a charlatan manages to conjure Elvira (his dead first wife) back from beyond – and she’s none too pleased to see someone else has taken her place.
It’s a neat idea, but somewhat heavy-handedly executed in Thea Sharrock’s busy revival.
Ruthie Henshall’s teasing Elvira glows eerily as she impishly sets about wrecking Charles’s new relationship – and his home – with a fixedly determined grin.
Jodie Taibi’s maid Edith stretches a small comic part as far as it could possibly go, and then some.
But Alison Steadman’s Madame Arcati (a mass of eccentric tics, weird yelps and ridiculous outfits) gives an over the top performance which yields diminishing returns and highlights the insubstantial nature of this bit of froth which Coward whisked up in less than a week.
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7EZ
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
08444 124 658
Until June 18
– Louise Kingsley