Blithe Spirit

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Blithe Spirit [1] is a play by Noël Coward (1899-1973) [2]. A comic play which takes its title from Shelley’s poem To a Skylark. The action of the play centres on socialite Charles Condomine being haunted by the ghost of his first wife Elvira following a séance, and Elvira's continued (and increasingly desperate) efforts to disrupt Charles' current marriage. First produced in the West End in 1941, setting box-office records and becoming a perennial favourite across the world and in South Africa.

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans as Die Vryerige Spook (lit. “The Amorous Ghost”) by Danie van den Heever.

Freely adapted and translated into Afrikaans as Die Vryerige Spook by Aart de Villiers and Don Lamprecht in 1980.

Translated into Afrikaans as Die Vryerige Spook by William Harding.

Performance history in South Africa

1944: produced in Johannesburg by the Gwen ffrangçon-Davies / Marda Vanne Company in collaboration with African Consolidated Theatres Ltd, also starring Margaret Inglis and Siegfried Mynhardt – a production attended by the author.

1944: At the Alhambra Theatre, Cape Town, Rolf Lefebvre, Gwen ffrangçon-Davies as Ruth, Margaret Inglis as Elvira, Marda Vanne as Madame Arcati, Ivy Collins, Jessie Bryant, Siegfried Mynhardt (Doctor Bradman). Setting by Basil South.

1951: Brian Brooke Company, January.

1952: Die Vryerige Spook, the Afrikaans translation by Van den Heever was produced by JAATS, directed by Isobel McLaren, starring Danie van den Heever, Neil de Villiers, Dora Vosloo, Ester van Waart, Marie de Flamingh, Suzanne van den Heever and Zanne Cloete.

1964: Taubie Kushlick presented the play at the Intimate Theatre, directed by Peter Shaffer.

1976: Opened in the Nico Malan Theatre in Cape Town on 15 Otober, staged by CAPAB and directed by Peter Curtis, with Mary Dreyer (Edith), Lois Butlin (Ruth), John Whiteley (Charles), Helen Bourne (Elvira), Paddy Canavan (Madame Arcati), Colin Duell (Dr Bradman) and Elizabeth Szymczak (Mrs Bradman).

1977: Professor Rosalie van der Gucht directed this play for PACT.

1980: The De Villiers/Lamprecht Afrikaans adaptation Die Vryerige Spook was staged by KNAT, directed by Aart de Villiers, with Santie van Schalkwyk (Edith), Annatjie Dijkstra (Ruth Condomine), Johan Kock (Charles Condomine), Neil le Grange (Dr Bradman), Esde Steyn (Mev Bradman), Hettie Kritzinger (Madame Arcati) and Jeanne Fritz (Elvira).

1984: Die Vryerige Spook, the Afrikaans translation by Van den Heever was staged by PACOFS, directed by Desmond Hughes, with Francesca Bantock, Blaise Koch and others.

1989: Presented by Pieter Toerien, directed by Robert Whitehead at the Alhambra Theatre (opening 16 July 1989) and the Theatre on the Bay (13 - 30 September 1989), starring Sandra Duncan (Elvira), Vanessa Cooke (Ruth), John Whiteley (Charles), Victoria Bawcombe (Edith), Chris Buchanan (Doctor Bradman, Johannesburg), John Dennison (Doctor Bradman, Cape Town), Charlotte Butler (Mrs Bradman, Johannesburg), Maureen Anstey (Mrs Bradman, Cape Town), Paddy Canavan (Madame Arcati).

1989: Jon Maytham directed the play at the Little Theatre, Cape Town, from 18 May 1989, for a production of the University of Cape Town Drama Department starring Heather Schiff, Anita Berk, Nigel Maister, Caroline Braham, Steven Raymond, Victoria Bartlett, Emma-Jane Mezher. Designer John Caviggia, lighting Pip Marshall, stage manager Jennifer Woodburne.

1998: Die Vryerige Spook the Afrikaans translation by Harding presented by the University of Stellenbosch Drama Department, directed by Blaise Koch. The cast: Anton Luitingh, Nikki Louw, Nina Swart, Mareli Hattingh, Abduragman Adams, Ilse Oppelt, Lindie Stander. Decor designed by Leopold Senekal, lighting by Tania Williams.


South African Opinion, 1(8):20; Trek 9(7):18, 1944.

Photograph - NELM Manuscripts - [Collection: FLETCHER, Jill]: 2005. 75. 19. 50.

Helikon, 1(6):40.

The Argus Tonight 18 October 1976.

CAPAB theatre programme, 1976 .

KNAT theatre programme, 1980.

PACOFS Drama 25 Years, 1963-1988.

Blithe Spirit theatre programme (UCT), 1989.

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

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