Blithe Spirit. Gielgud Theatre, London. April 2014.
I was joined by an old friend, Jo, for this play - she is another person that indulges me in my hobby but in my defence she did already have an interest in theatre and (this time) I didn't do too much corrupting.
Some how or other I managed to get to this play without knowing anything about the story save that a seance goes wrong and a man's first wife comes back from "the otherside" to haunt him. Unlike some plays where not knowing the plot is a hindrance this made Blithe Spirit a total delight as Coward is a master story teller and I could follow everything whilst still being surprised by the story.
Coming from Kent originally the little details about towns I know well were very funny and added another level of enjoyment to the afternoon. Once I'd got used to the applause every time Dame Angela Lansbury entered or exited the stage I found the play a delight. It was also nice to see a comedy that wasn't farce, yes there were elements but the laughs did rely more on the lines and interpretation rather than slapstick actions.
But...and you knew that this was coming... if there hadn't been a star name attached to the play would it be being staged in London, and would it be selling out? There was absolutely nothing wrong with any of the play, it was well acted, well designed and funny but for Jo and I it wasn't anything more and certainly not standing ovation worthy.
I also certainly don't think that the premium tickets at over £100 represent anything like good value. I hasten to add that we paid nothing like this amount for our seats and although listed as restricted view we missed very little of the action.
I enjoyed the afternoon immensely and loved the play a lot but it just wasn't memorable and while our seats made this fine if I'd paid more I'd have been very disappointed.
The West End seems to have gone mad with pricing at the moment, and celebrity casting which could be causing the price rises. I appreciate that it isn't cheap to mount a good production but when one premium West End ticket for Book of Mormon at £152 - through the theatre and not secondhand - will pay for an entire season at the National Theatre or The Globe I feel that something is wrong. I know a lot of theatres offer day seats but when you live a 2 hour train ride away getting in the queue for these is impossible and the cheap ticket Mondays mean that you have to be on line at just the right time or else...
The train companies offer advance booking discounts and so do hotels - why not the theatres?