The show must go on.
It’s the mantra that underpins any live performance, and is one that holds true for Townsville Little Theatre’s current offering, Blithe Spirit.
The production, originally penned by Noel Coward, was one of the longest-running plays on West End for a clear reason: it’s mysterious, funny, and at its core are a selection of charismatic, ebullient characters. The local troupe, directed by Glenn Shield, was cast perfectly: from Renee Wagner’s endearing matter-of-factness as Charles’ (current) wife Ruth, to Lucy Gounaris’ timid obedience as the household maid, Edith.
What was made clear to the audience before the show began was that the role of the psychic Madame Arcati had been revised. After sustaining a serious injury in the week leading up to opening night, unfortunately Barbara White would no longer be able to fully embody the ethereal and energetic medium. However, rather than let that stop the show, a regular on the Townsville Little Theatre stage stepped in.
Pamela Garrick, you are incredibly professional and extremely brave. I cannot commend you enough on your performance – and believe the entire audience forgave you for holding a script on-stage, knowing the circumstances. Because, even with script in-hand, you delivered one of the most memorable and hilarious performances of the night. I was seated with friends and we were disappointed when you first referred to your notes, but you had won us all over by the end of Act One. Theatre is about so much more than memorising lines: it’s about taking on the role of a character, making the audience believe you are someone other than yourself, and entertaining. Pamela achieved all of that and then some.
What did distract and take away from the experience a little were the constant reminders of lines from side-stage for Charles, played by Nick Cliff. I have seen Nick perform in several different productions over the years and thoroughly enjoy the injection of personality he brings to every performance. However, believe that having notes as Pamela did was a lot less distracting, and kept the pace and comedy of the performance alive.
As wives past and present, Renee Wagner (Ruth) and Janelle Croft (Elvira) played off each other extremely well – which would be a difficult challenge, with Ruth not being able to see or hear Elvira for much of the production. Renee shone in my eyes, with a stand-out scene being her fight with Charles as Elvira first starts causing havoc. Her aggression was real, her heart was worn on her sleeve, and we were really made to feel for her.
I must not only congratulate Glenn Shield for his fantastic direction of Blithe Spirit, but set realisation and design for the play too. The stage looked fantastic, with the props and costumes all in keeping with the set thanks to Cheryl Smith and Pamela Garrick.
Theatre stops for no one. Whether it’s a missing prop, a lost voice or – in this case – a broken bone, the audience still wants a show. Townsville Little Theatre has stepped up and delivered a funny and exciting story despite the circumstances, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the group.
Catch Blithe Spirit at the Pimlico Performing Arts Centre tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30pm, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday as well. Tickets available here.
The Huxley Press team wish Barbara White a speedy recovery, and hope to see her grace the stage again soon.