King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – until 6 February 2016
Then touring until 1 May
Guest reviewer: Martin Gray
A classic tale by Queen of Crime Agatha Christie enjoys a timeless adaptation care of Middle Ground Theatre Company.
It’s an ordinary Friday in the grand home Letitia Blacklock shares with niece Julia, nephew Patrick, lodger Phillipa and companion Bunny. An ‘intimation’ in the small ads of the local paper changes all that. It gives notice that at 6.30pm that very day, in that very house, a murder will be committed.
Bunny is disturbed and Hungarian housemaid Mitzi is a nervous wreck, but the others don’t take the threat seriously. Goodness, they could even make a bit of a party out of the idea, as curious friends are bound to pop round. Sandwiches are called for. When the appointed time arrives, the lights go out, and shots ring through the drawing room…
Who’s the victim? Who’s the killer? That’s for us to find out, along with spinster sleuth Jane Marple and doughty detective Inspector Craddock, in one of Agatha Christie’s most delightfully daring mysteries.
It’s fair to say this is an unlikely tale, but such huge fun that the twists and turns make perfect sense as they’re doled out, little by little. This is a world in which heirs are graceless, as likely to murder one another as have a slice of cake. There are no superheroes in Chipping Cleghorn, but secret identities aplenty, and only Miss Marple can sort it all out.
Leslie Darbon’s 1977 stage adaptation sets Christie’s classic in its original setting of 1950, ensuring the character types and attitudes don’t jar, or require tortuous tweaking for a more modern setting.
The intimation is discovered by Sarah Thomas, with Lydia Piechowiak, Diane Fletcher, Patrick Neyman and Julia Simmons. Photo Middle Ground.
And the characters are huge fun, from Diane Fletcher’s Letitia, a dead ringer for the Duchess of Cornwall, to Tom Butcher’s charmingly chippy copper Craddock. Sarah Thomas hits the right note of nervousness for Bunny, while Patrick Neyman mines a rich seam of oiliness as student idler Patrick.
Lydia Piechowiak is a hoot as heavily accented Mitzi, so apparently over the top that the character has to be faking it, surely? And Alicia Ambrose-Bayly and Rachel Bright as down-at heel single mum Philippa and trainee pharmacist Julia, well, talk about butter wouldn’t melt.
And then there’s Miss Marple, quietly knitting, chewing over the information in her man-trap of a mind; Judy Cornwell hits just the right note, giving us a Marple who’s disarmingly daffy on occasion and not to be underestimated.
The character isn’t on stage as much as you might expect, but when she is, Cornwell is a treat in tweed. And her final scene with the killer is just splendid theatre, two excellent actors taking on a crazily convoluted climax and making it sing.
Christie may have favoured poison, but Michael Lunney’s production is the perfect tonic for a cold, winter night.
Running time 2 hours 20 mins including 1 interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 1 – Saturday 6 February 2016
Evenings 7:30pm; Matinees Wed and Sat 2:30pm
Details and tickets from http://www.edtheatres.com/marple
Tour details: www.middlegroundtheatre.co.uk
Click on the images below to purchase the original novel, Leslie Darbon adaptation or ITV movie with Geraldine McEwan from Amazon:
A Murder is Announced on tour 2016:
Mon 1 – Sat 6 Feb
0131 529 6000
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Feb
Tue 23 – Sat 27 Feb
Tue 1 – Sat 5 March
0845 127 2190
Mon 21 – Sat 26 March
Tue 29 March – Sat 2nd April
Isle Of Wight
Tue 12 – Sat 16 April
01793 524 481
Mon 18 – Sat 23 April
Bury St Edmunds
The Cast of A Murder is Announced