A Murder is Announced – Gaiety Theatre – Review by Frank L.
Written by Agatha Christie
Until 9th Sept
Originally published as a novel in 1950, this stage adaptation first appeared in 1977 in London. This particular revival is produced by the Middle Ground Theatre Company and it is on tour from July to November. In the classic Agatha Christie mould, the action takes place in a genteel world. Little Paddocks is a comfortable establishment presided over by Letitia Blacklock (Janet Dibley). Living in the house is her old friend and sort of companion Dora “Bunny” Bunner (Sarah Thomas). There are also Letitia’s young cousins Patrick Simmons (Will Huntington) and Julia Simmons (Lucy Evans) who call her Aunt because of the age difference. There is also a paying guest/gardener Phillipa Haymes (Alicia Ambrose Bayly) and a general dogsbody of a housekeeper- come- cook Mitzi (Lydia Piechowiak), who is a refugee of mid European origin. She has to look after the above assorted crew.
As Little Paddocks is situate in the village of Chipping Cleghorn, the local busy body neighbour is provided by a Mrs. Swettenham (Dot Smith) who is accompanied by her left- leaning- writer son Edmund (Dean Smith). There is of course Miss Marple (Cara Chase) who is visiting the village and needless to say a couple of police officers, Inspector Craddock (Tom Butcher) and Sergeant Mellors (Jog Maher). Then there is Rudi Scherz (Matthew Wellman), a receptionist at a local spa, who has known Letitia in the past.
The unusual part of the plot is that the local village newspaper contains an announcement that a murder is going to take place that day, the 29th of October, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm and it does! But when the vile act takes place the stage is plunged into darkness. In the darkness the flashes of three shots can be seen. When the lights return the corpse is that of Rudi Scherz. The suspects are everyone other than Miss Marple and the two officers of the law.
The set is a well crafted depiction of a 1950’s sitting room, complete with tables, chairs and a bakelite radio. There is some evidence of rooms behind and also a door to the garden, where the ducks periodically voice their hunger. It is a stylishly produced drama.
There is a thoroughly efficient twelve member cast. Each is well suited to the character which he or she has to play. Their timing is good and where there is humour to be had from the text, they find it. Throughout Miss Marple keeps an observant eye on the proceedings. On the opening night there was one theatrical hitch when a radio did not come on when required. Apart from that glitch, everything ran on suitably oiled wheels. The audience is kept in the dark as to who the murderer was until the end. If a fun “whodunit” is your cup of tea, this production is to be seen.
Find out more about Middle Ground Theatre Company here.
A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie
Adapted for the Stage by Leslie Darbon
Designed and directed by Michael Lunney
Starring LOUISE JAMESON as MISS MARPLE and JANET DIBLEY as LETITIA BLACKLOCK, with TOM BUTCHER, SARAH THOMAS, DEAN SMITH, LUCY EVANS, CARA CHASE, ALICIA AMBROSE-BAYLY, LYDIA PIECHOWIAK, JOG MAHER, WILL HUNTINGTON and MATTHEW WELLMAN.