What story would you tell in 10 minutes? That time you watched a chicken drive a forklift. The 100-year-old cup of tea you found in the arctic ice sheet. Or perhaps you would talk about hiring a medium to contact your late mother with the help of a meal-deal sandwich.
In John Hickman’s play Blyth Spirit, staged as part of Live Theatre’s 10 Minutes To…Call Home series, Hickman puts his own spin on the long running West End staple Blithe Spirit. When Matty wants to talk to his mother in the afterlife he enlists the help of Ian. Although a highly experienced medium, since watching Ghost Busters II, Ian’s foray into the world beyond does not bring the results Matty originally hoped for.
The play quickly settles into its comedic pace. Occasionally, some jokes do go under the radar, however, they are set up long before the punchline.
Adam Donaldson and Mitch Donaldson give an amazing performance as Ian and Matty, gradually escalating the oddity of the situation that brings them together. The arrival of Georgia, played by Serena Ramsey, adds some more dramatic moments to the story. Her history with Matty doesn’t just angle the play into a different direction, but also shows us some different sides of M. Donaldson’s character Matty.
Altogether, the performances are excellent. A. Donaldson portrayal of Ian manages to be both creepy and innocent; his smart suit and turtleneck jumper set him apart from tracksuit clad Matty, who M. Donaldson plays with a rugged charm and his emotions on his sleeve. Ramsey is excellent in her depiction of flirtatious and free-spirited Georgia, adding fragility at just the right moments.
However, where I do see the need for criticism is that Blyth Spirit tries to cover a lot of ground in not a great amount of time. Many storylines are quickly picked up and then dropped, giving the play a very rushed and disjointed feeling; once the play moves in one rhythm, it must manoeuvre itself into another.
In particular, Matty’s relationship with Georgia felt wedged into the play rather than the main source of conflict. An introduction to Georgia’s character, or mention of how Matty coped with her loss, during the séance scene would add depth to Matty and Georgia’s past connection.
Despite this, Hickman shows a confident hand with his take on Noël Coward’s classic. Comedy and drama are never in competition, rather they are pulled together to create a mix of humour and painful acceptance. With some tweaks and tucks and, fingers crossed, an engaged audience, I believe Blyth Spirit will be a standout piece in our world and beyond.
Blyth Spirit is streaming as part of the 10 Minutes To…Call Home series until 31 October. For more information see the Live Theatre website.