Blithe Spirit | Black Swan State Theatre CompanyLeft – Adam Booth and Adriane Daff. Cover – Ella Hetherington and Adam Booth. Photos – Gary Marsh Photography

The show must go on! Even when the actor playing a pivotal role is struck down with illness after the first preview.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen the practice of a replacement cast member performing with a script in their hand. Alison van Reeken did a splendid job in the 72 hours prior to the opening night of Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit to take over the role of Madame Arcati from Roz Hammond. Van Reeken’s blocking, vocal characterisation and relationship with the others on stage was as professional as you would expect in a performance she’d been working on for months. She incorporated the script into her physical performance wherever practical and managed it around her props, quite nicely.

I was suitably impressed, across the board, by all of the performances. Each of the cast was a member of the Black Swan collective, having performed with the company previously. Adam Booth who was fantastic earlier this year in Venus in Fur, played the role of Charles Condomine, the man tormented by the ghost of his ex-wife, Elvira (played by Jo Morris). Mr Condomine’s current wife, Ruth was portrayed by one of my perennial favourites to watch, Adriane Daff. The comic relief was provided almost to the point of distraction by the maid, Edith, who was played by Ella Hetherington. Michael Loney and Michelle Fornasier filled out the minor roles as Dr and Mrs Bradman.

The set designed by Bryan Woltjen, was as I have come to expect from the Black Swan shows in the luxurious venue that is the Heath Ledger Theatre. It had impact. Not only was it grand in design, it was highly functional with several moving features as required when the living room was visited by a poltergeist.

In his main stage debut as Director for BSSTC, Jeffrey Jay Fowler admitted being wary of approaching Coward’s 1940s play, which can have the tendency to drag a little bit, and notes that he was not allowed to edit the script at all. Despite the expository scenes in the first half being slightly wordy, Fowler accentuated the most interesting moments and relationships, which went a long way to creating a sense of empathy for the characters and engagement with the plot.

There was no word about whether the casting will remain or if Hammond will be reinstated, should she recover in time. Despite that slight hiccup, Blithe Spirit is still a solid production and safe choice.


Black Swan State Theatre Company presents
Blithe Spirit
by Noel Coward

Directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler

Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 18 July – 9 August, 2015
Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 | www.ticketek.com.au