Curtains for Hilton

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 1995, 12:00am

DEREK Nimmo arrived in town on Saturday night to produce the last of his plays at the Hilton Hotel before it is demolished on April 30.

The actor-turned-producer is presenting Noel Coward's highly amusing Blithe Spirit, an engaging comedy about an English gentleman whose second marriage is haunted by the ghost of his first wife, and later by that of his second.

With him on the tour, which is later to go on to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time, is the venerable Peggy Mount, who plays the medium, David Yelland as the hen-pecked husband, Jenny Funnell as the ghost and Celia Bannerman as the new wife.

'It's the end of an era,' lamented Derek, who will be taking his annual productions to the Conrad for the foreseeable future. 'We first started coming here 20 years ago when, if you missed the Star Ferry, you had to take a wallah-wallah to get to Kowloon side.

'The Hilton is a wonderful hotel. I would never have left it had I not been chucked out. The staff are so nice. I have known some of them for 23 years. They always greet me warmly.' Derek went on to reveal that the actress Elizabeth Hurley, girlfriend of Hugh Grant of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame and notorious for the skimpiness of her dresses, got her first break with his company in Hong Kong, as did David Jason and Terry Scott. 'Leslie Phillips was auditioning Elizabeth for a role in The Man Most Likely To,' he recalled.

'I asked him later what she was like and he had been so overwhelmed by her sheer sexual attraction that he couldn't remember. We decided to hire the Shaftesbury Theatre in London to audition her again and she read brilliantly. She is the most brilliant comedienne, much more than Hugh Grant's girlfriend.' Blithe Spirit, which was first produced in London and directed by Coward in 1941 for a record-breaking run of 1,997 performances, is one of Britain's most enduring plays. The cast and director John David have a string of successful stage and television shows behind them.

The play runs from March 8-18 at the Hilton. Tickets, at $565 each, including a four-course dinner, are available on 2523-3111, extension 2009. Dinner starts at 7.30pm and the play begins at 9.30pm.