Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of 66 detective novels and 14 collections of short stories. Her play The Mousetrap is the world’s longest running play, and yet, despite her multitudinous success, she humbly presented herself as a housewife and downplayed some of the most challenging elements of her life.
Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, historian, author and presenter, brings with her nearly as many accolades as the great lady herself. We are at York Theatre Royal, enjoying an evening of stories and secrets about the late Agatha Christie as detailed in Worsley’s book, Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman.
Worsley brings with her a humour which is playful and infectious; her engaging presentation style embraces the audience and puts us at ease in our seats. Using devices all too familiar to her subject, Worsley frames the evening as a detective novel – she posits members of the audience as strangers to each other despite friendship groups, emphasising that, as Christie learnt, anyone could be a suspect, and everyone has their secrets.
We are presented with the following mystery: On Friday 3 December, 1926, Agatha Christie went missing. What happened to her? We will only find out if we stay for the whole talk. Let commence Worsley’s uncloaking of the elusive Agatha Christie.
Worsley expertly weaves together key events in Christie’s life, from falling for her first husband, pilot Archie Christie, to volunteering in the Voluntary Aid Detachment in the first World War. We are able to paint a picture of a woman who loved passionately and lived with a sense of adventure. However, from the outset, Worlsey gives the sense that this is more than a talk on Agatha Christie.
Worsley’s suggestions on feminism, mental health and the fortitude needed for women to overcome the societal stereotypes of the day is as much an analysis of Christie’s life as of our current landscape. The historian’s masterful approach to storytelling illuminates Christie’s experiences and in doing so highlights cultural norms which should be relinquished to the past, if ever they belonged there.
The second half of the evening sees Worsley taking questions from the audience. We kick off with a question about Hampton Court Palace, which once answered, gives Worsley the chance to crack another joke and remind us of her slightly mischievous sense of humour. We finish the evening enlightened not only about Christie, but highly entertained by an excellent presenter.
Reviewed on 26th September 2022.