Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal, Bath

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This show turns out, in Thea Sharrock's zinging production, to be a blast. Noël Coward's ghostly comedy proves a welcome change from his more over-exposed Private Lives.

This show turns out, in Thea Sharrock's zinging production, to be a blast. Noël Coward's ghostly comedy proves a welcome change from his more over-exposed Private Lives.

A spooky caper set in Kent, it features a well-heeled and married novelist, Charles Condomine, who invites to dinner a psychic medium, Madame Arcati, whom he intends to study for research purposes. At the after-dinner séance, to his great surprise, he finds the spirit of his dead wife, Elvira, summoned back to re-pluck his heartstrings and generally cause chaos. Charles thus finds himself trapped between two wives, one dead and one living. This comedy about the vengeful dead is something of a piss-take of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, but instead of gothic gloom we get flying vases and sinister soda siphons.

A wild director like Stephen Daldry might one day do a number on this 1941 classic which made such a joke of death during the bloodiest episode in London's history. In the meantime Sharrock gives it the full period treatment and entrusts its crispy dialogue to a superb cast from the Peter Hall Company.

Margaret Rutherford still haunts the role of Madam Arcati, the bike-riding psychic eccentric who causes all the trouble by raising the dead Mrs Condomine. But Penelope Keith claims the role as her own; dressed in a turban and bangles she looks and sounds like Edith Sitwell on uppers. Sitting crossed-legged on the sofa, the bossy old trout's sunny "away with melancholy" spirit shines through all the scepticism around her.

No less a revelation is Amanda Drew as Elvira, the wife who wafts back into the drawing room as a frustrated, teasing ghost only her husband can see. Her only concession to death is to wear a little glitter and some sexy, curve-revealing satin. She lounges about with a feline sinuousness and fabulous comic panache which blows memories of both Joanna Lumley and Twiggy, much starrier Elviras in their time, clean out of the water.

Aden Gillett has a ball fleshing out the smug smoothie Charles who, after Elvira, has settled for a second marriage based on calm. It is impossible today to wear a cravat and velvet smoking jacket without looking like a thumping prat, but Gillett never subsides into parody. It's a joy to watch him lose the plot as he is spooked to distraction by Elvira, his true love. When he discovers he can't touch her ghostly form there's a visible pang of regret. For all its ethereal mullarkey, the comedy is about physical love; what Charles and Elvira clearly had was great sex. That is not part of the deal with his new wife, Ruth, whose bossiness, lack of appeal and cheese-grater posh voice Joanna Riding plays up valiantly, as the bickering war between the living and the dead reaches a gratifyingly hilarious climax.

Simon Higlett's design comes with lush furniture and fittings in a fine plasterwork Georgian interior that's eye-wateringly sumptuous. This dead plush and cacklingly enjoyable revival reminds you just what a subversively funny writer Coward was.

To 4 September (01225 448 844)

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