Writer: Agatha Christie
Director: Joe Harmston
Reviewer: Helen Jones
The Agatha Christie Company’s production of Murder On Air leads to a rather novel idea for an evening’s entertainment. They have taken three little known radio plays by the writer and put them on the stage. However they are not ‘staged’ as such, instead the evening is performed as if you are watching the broadcast taking place, complete with live sound effects. All the plays only run for half an hour each, timed for their BBC live broadcast, but all have that classic Agatha Christie feel.
Personal Call was first broadcast in May 1954 but has the feel of an earlier setting. James Brent is at his own cocktail party when he receives a phone call from his former wife. She rings him again following evening. But she has been dead for over a year. At his new wife’s insistence they go to meet her as requested.
The Yellow Iris started as a short story, but was adapted as a radio play and broadcast in 1937. It was Hercule Poirot’s first radio appearance. The plot was later adapted into the novel Sparkling Cyanide. But here Poirot receives a mysterious phone call to come and prevent a crime. Brandon Russell is holding a party to celebrate four years since his wife’s death at a nightclub and he has invited all the same people. But as with all Christie plots there is something sinister afoot!
The final play Butter In A Lordly Dish was first broadcast in 1948. The title is from a bible story of Jael and Sisera although the significance of that is only revealed late on in the narrative. Sir Luke Enderby is a highly successful proscecution barrister. He is also a seasonod philanderer. However when he goes to spend a weekend in the country with his latest conquest, all does not go entirely as he planned!
The tour uses different guest stars at different theatres and for this week at The Lowry the actors starring were Robert Powell and Liza Goddard, both of whom were obviously having great fun reading their various characters and Mr Powell’s Poirot was especially good (not surprising considering he has just spent time playing the rôle on a previous tour). However it is the rest of the cast, Simon Cole, Joe Harmston, Louise Faulkner, Simon Linnell and Sonia Saville who work hardest at creating the myriad of other characters involved along with additional sound effects.
Special praise though must go to the pianist/ foley artist Alexander S. Bermange who spends the majority of his time creating the live sound effects and appearing to relish in the actions. His final effect at the end of Butter In A Lordly Dish is especially well created. Simon Scullion’s simple set is evocative of a broadcast studio of the era and allows the actors to take centre stage.
While Murder on Air might not be a traditional evening in company of the Queen of Crime, it is a wonderful opportunity to hear some of her little known work while seeing some excellent voice acting. Well worth an evening out.
Runs until 20th September 2014