Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 29th June, 2015
Still the longest-running play in London, Agatha Christie’s legendary whodunit continues to tour in this production first mounted a couple of years ago to mark the 60th anniversary. And the tour is still going strong – in fact, catching it again two years on, I think it’s going stronger.
Knowing who dun it doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the piece. It’s fun to spot all the red herrings and misdirection Christie builds in, as well as the clues she seeds in from the offset.
Giles and Mollie Ralston receive their first guests to their new venture, a country house hotel. Unfortunately, it’s snowing and won’t stop and, down in London, there’s been a murder. Christie introduces us to a range of oddball characters, each of them suspicious in their own way, before trapping them in the house and cutting them off from the outside world, and bumping one of them off… The killer from London is among them!
What makes it fun – and some of the outmoded attitudes (a character’s campness is regarded as a mental aberration!) palatable – is the expert playing by the ensemble, who capture the larger-than-life characters without too much exaggeration. Director Ian Watt-Smith brings out the humour of the piece as well as the suspense and tension. It’s a delicious watch.
As Giles Ralston, Mark Homer is suitably charming and yet pompous – and sounds a little like David Mitchell! Esther McAuley is his Mrs, Mollie, again pulling off the period accent with aplomb and, later, showing sensitivity and emotional depth (not something you see often with Christie’s characters). Anne Kavanagh is bombastic old biddy Mrs Boyle, William Ilkley is bluff old cove Major Metcalf, but their colourfulness is topped by Jonathan Sidgwick’s outrageous Italian, Mr Paravicini, who turns up unannounced. Also striking in this performance is Jocasta King, standing in as young-woman-in-trousers Miss Casewell. Conducting an investigation is Luke Jenkins’s energetic Sergeant Trotter but it’s the most extrovert character, the vigorous Christopher Wren (an irrepressible Edward Elgood) who cuts the biggest dash – irritating, overbearing and yet funny and touching, Elgood elicits an Ahhh from the audience at one point, so enjoyable is his portrayal.
Christie’s plot moves like clockwork, drawing us in and getting our minds working. I think I enjoyed it more the second time around.