Writer: Agatha Christieadapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon
Director: Michael Lunney
Reviewer: Sue Collier
Agatha Christie wrote more than seventy detective novels about the now famous detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. In December 1926, aged 36, she became rather like one of the characters involved in the plots within her own books, when she mysteriously disappeared from her home in Surrey. Her car was found hanging over the edge of a cliff the same day. For eleven days a huge police search took place. On 14 December 1926, she was discovered, enjoying a fashionably elegant lifestyle in the Spa Town of Harrogate. Her novel of A Murder is Announced was published in 1950.
It is no wonder then that Harrogate seemed a good setting for this play, as it makes a number of references to the benefits of living in a Spa Town with its associated healthy lifestyle opportunities.
The play is set in a charming Edwardian drawing room. Initially, it is rather difficult to discern the era, as the stage is dressed with a mixture of Art Deco and Edwardian furniture along with a 1980’s sofa and easy chair that are far too modern for the post-war era being presented. Michael Lunney’s elegant costume designs are however, high in quality and the actors wear their period clothing well and with ease.
The story advises the audience of a strange notice in the local paper of the village of Chipping Cleghorn: “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends accept this, the only intimation”.
No-one appears to know who placed the announcement in the paperbut at 6:30 pm, a group of intrigued villagers gather at Little Paddocks (the home of Letitia Blacklock). As the clock strikes 6:30 pm, the lights go out and several gunshots are heard. When the lights come back on, they reveal a dead man on the floor.
The part of Letitia is played by Diane Fletcher, who really holds this show together – relaxed and convincing in her role. Other characters were less convincing and there are a few slightly wooden presentations. Miss Marple is played by Judy Cornwall, who at first appears somewhat stiff and unsure of her role, however, she draws on her comedic abilities later in the production to warm the audience to her character.
There is some amusing middle-class condemnation of left-wing intellectuals and further humour provided by Lydia Piechowiak in the role of the silly housemaid Mitzi, a survivor from war-torn Poland who appeared to constantly anticipate Gestapo-like questioning from the policemen investigating the murder.
Despite the intellectuals and few outstanding performances, generally, this play is rather disappointing. It feels stilted throughout and not presented to the standard of a professional production, and sadly struggles to maintain the attention of the audience.
Runs until Saturday 13 February 2016 | Image: Contributed