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Lansbury and Blakemore reunite for Blithe Spirit

Published 29 November 2013

Angela Lansbury will return to the West End stage next year to star alongside Janie Dee and Charles Edwards in a revival of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud theatre.

Her first London stage outing for almost 40 years, Lansbury will reprise the role of Madame Arcati for which she previously won her fifth Tony Award in the 2009 Broadway revival directed by Michael Blakemore, who will also direct the 2014 London production.

Last seen in the West End in 2011 starring Alison Steadman and Robert Bathurst, Coward’s comic play tells the story of Charles and Ruth, a writer and his wife who invite their friends for dinner so that they can experience a séance with local clairvoyant Madame Arcati as research for Charles’ next novel. Certain that the spiritualist is a phoney, the diners are shocked when the ghost of Charles’ first wife Elvira is summoned and proceeds to stay in their home over the days that follow, causing a rift between the feuding females.

Legendary stage and screen star Lansbury, whose career has spanned more than half a century, has won numerous awards for her stage performances, but hasn’t been seen on the London stage since her performance as Gertrude in the National Theatre’s 1975 production of Hamlet. On screen, the actress is best known for portraying fictional writer Jessica Fletcher in the American long-running murder series Murder, She Wrote.

Lansbury will be joined in Coward’s hit comedy by double Olivier Award-winning actress Janie Dee as Ruth. Dee, who picked up two of London theatre’s most prestigious accolades for her performances in 2000’s Comic Potential and 1993’s Carousel, was last seen on the London stage in NSFW at the Royal Court, which earned her an Olivier Award nomination. The actress’ other recent appearances include Noises Off at the Old Vic and in the West End, and she is also set to appear in forthcoming musical revue Putting It Together at the St James theatre in January. His last appearance in the West End, The King’s Speech, earned him an Evening Standard Best Actor Award nomination.

The duo’s co-star Edwards takes on the role of Dee’s onstage husband Charles Condomine following his professional stage debut in the play at the age of 24. The Downton Abbey star, who was last seen on the London stage in Strange Interlude at the National Theatre, is a familiar face on stage at the Southbank venue, having appeared in productions including This House, Twelfth Night, The Duchess Of Malfi and All My Sons.

Directed by Tony Award winner Blakemore, who has notched up a similarly extensive number of credits at the National Theatre where he was an Associate Director for five years, most recently directing 2008’s Afterlife, Blithe Spirit will play at the Gielgud theatre from 1 March (press night 18 March).

The production will follow the current stage adaptation of psychological thriller Strangers On A Train, starring Laurence Fox and Jack Huston, which plays at the venue until 22 February.

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