Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

NEWS: SUSAN PENHALIGON JOINS THE UK TOUR OF AGATHA CHRISTIE’S THE MOUSETRAP

Television star Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire, A Fine Romance, Emmerdale) will join the cast of Agatha Christie’s legendary whodunnit as Mrs Boyle at Theatre Royal, Glasgow this month.

Directed by Gareth Armstrong, the timeless thriller will be staged at the city centre venue from Monday 28 October until Saturday 2 November. The Mousetrap returned to the road by popular demand earlier this year and has been earning standout reviews from critics and public alike.  

As the snow storm worsens the inhabitants of Monkswell Manor find themselves cut off from the outside world and we discover there is a murderer in their midst. With a third and final murder anticipated there is a race against time to reveal the secret and discover the identity of the murderer.

Susan Penhaligon (Mrs Boyle) is well-known for her role in the ITV drama Bouquet of Barbed Wire, and for playing Helen Barker in the ITV sitcom A Fine Romance. She also played Jean Hope in UK soap Emmerdale. She has toured the UK extensively with stage productions including The Importance of being Earnest, Cabaret, Rehearsal for Murder, And Then There Were None, The Constant Wife, Verdict and Dangerous Obsessions. Stage credits also include Caste (Finborough Theatre), Murder on Air (Theatre Royal Windsor), Broken Glass (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The Compliant Love (Palace Theatre) and The Cherry Orchard (Royal Exchange). Susan has also appeared on film in Top Dog, Citizen Versus Kane, Say that You Love Me, Say Hello to Yesterday and Private Road.

The cast also includes David Alcock (Mr Paravicini), Geoff Arnold (Detective Sgt. Trotter), Nick Biadon (Giles Ralston), Lewis Chandler (Christopher Wren), John Griffiths (Major Metcalf), Harriett Hare (Mollie Ralston) and Saskia Vaigncourt-Strallen (Miss Casewell).

The Mousetrap has been thrilling audiences for 67 years and the identity of the murderer remains theatre-land’s best kept secret.

First seen in Nottingham in 1952 starring Richard Attenborough and his wife Sheila Sim, The Mousetrap went on to become the world’s longest running stage production following its West End transfer to The Ambassadors in 1952 and St Martins in 1973 where it has played ever since, continuing a record-breaking run with over 27,500 performances in London so far. The beloved murder mystery returns to the road following the success of the first ever UK tour in 2012.

WHAT’S ON OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2019 – The Mousetrap

The scene is set when a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. Who can it be?

One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve-shredding moment the identity and the motive are finally revealed.

Experience shuddering suspense and a brilliantly intricate plot where murder lurks around every corner.

Starring Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire, A Fine Romance).

Theatre Royal Glasgow

Mon 28 Oct – Sat 2 Nov 2019
282 Hope St, Glasgow G2 3QA, UK
2 hours 20 minutes
Mon – Sat at 19:30
Thurs and Sat at 14:30 and 19:30
Audio Described – Sat at 14:30
Age guidance 12+

REVIEW: Love From a Stranger – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Adapted from a 1934 short story Philomel Cottage, Agatha Christie wrote an unperformed stage version of the same name which itself was re-written as Love From a Stranger by actor and playwright Frank Vosper in 1936. Director Lucy Bailey, for Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton, re-sets the action two decades later to the 1950s, all cut-glass accents and limited female opportunity.

This psychological thriller provides a great night’s entertainment, but be aware that this is a slow burn that smoulders along without ever fully bursting into flame.

Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) comes up trumps in a sweepstake, and while Cecily wants to live large on her substantial winnings, her dull as ditch water fiancé Michae (Justin Avoth) arrives back from the Sudan to dash her plans and resign her to a life of domestic drudgery. When an attractive and adventurous American, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frencham) comes on the scene, Cecily’s world is turned on its head. Cecily marries Bruce, moving to an isolated cottage in the country.

The red herrings are positively scarlet. From the beginning it’s clear that Lovell isn’t what he seems. He lurks in the shadows, surreptitiously taking pictures of Cecily, sniffing her lingerie, constantly scribbling in a notebook. Moving her from friends and neighbours, the gaslighting continues until Cecily is an apparent puppet in Lovell’s hands, but all is never as it seems on the surface with Christie. As the tension builds and perspectives change, we are entertainingly led along the crooked path that Christie is so well known for.

This entire production is quite obviously influenced by Michael Powell’s 1960 British cinema classic, Peeping Tom. The sense of unease is cleverly created on Mike Britton’s sliding wall set with opaque panels where we can watch Lovell’s voyeuristic goings-on. Richard Hammarton’s sound design and Oliver Fenwick’s crimson-tinged lighting are characters in themselves, helping to ramp up the creeping tension.

The cast are uniformly solid given how affected the original dialogue sounds to an audience’s modern ear and the ‘heightened’ characterisations skirt (just) on the right side of caricature.

Christie rarely puts a foot wrong, and as a piece of ‘good, old-fashioned’ entertainment it is undoubtedly a winner.

Runs until 30 June 2018 | Image: Contributed, review originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: The Mousetrap – The Town House, Hamilton

The name Agatha Christie attached to a production is draw enough and so it proves here in Hamilton. Playing to a packed house, what started as a 60th Anniversary celebration UK tour, has now extended into its fourth year, such is the pull of the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap.

A seemingly disparate group gather in the midst of winter at remote country house hotel Monkswell Manor. Cut off by the snow, they soon discover a murderer in their midst. One by one their pasts are revealed and dark secrets are uncovered.

Despite their years, good old fashioned murder mysteries never fail to entertain and so it proves here. Played out on an atmospheric set which sits perfectly in this delightful period auditorium, these archetypal Christie characters from the golden age of crime fiction, play out their thoroughly entertaining dance of deception.

In playing characters that are a hairbreadth away from caricature, the actors have to walk a fine line between believability and parody and some it must be said are on a surer footing than others. Luke Jenkins’ Sgt. Trotter is the stand out in this ensemble cast, imbuing the character with a gravitas beyond his years. Less successful are Mousetrap veterans Anne Kavanagh (Mrs Boyle) and William Ilkley (Major Metcalf), who both veer a little to far into exaggeration; Kavanagh in action and Ilkley in accent. While Edward Elgood’s jittery young thing, Christopher Wren and Jonathan Sidgwick’s suspicious foreigner with something to hide, Mr Paravicini are teetering on the edge of comic, they at least have been written that way.

All in all though, it still has the power to thrill and proves that there is life in the old dog yet.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: And Then There Were None – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

A cast of TV favourites celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of Agatha Christie and the 10th anniversary of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company with a production of the Queen of Crime’s much-loved masterpiece, And Then There Were None at the Theatre Royal this week.

Ten strangers are lured to a remote island off the coast of Devon. On arrival their mysterious host is missing. Stranded by a raging storm and taunted by references to a sinister nursery rhyme the guests begin to disappear one by one…

Good old-fashioned storytelling always wins out and so it proves here. Based on the best-selling mystery novel of all time, And Then There Were None has overtaken The Mousetrap in popularity to become of the nation’s favourite plays and Bill Kenwright’s production doesn’t disappoint. The stellar cast, gorgeous Art Deco set and masterful plotting combine to produce a gripping and atmospheric work that will keep you pinned to the edge of your seat until the very end.

Director Joe Harmston, has fine form with the works of Christie, having directed all of the previous adaptations from the company, and his deft touch shows here. Limited to a fixed set, he manages to keep the interest levels high throughout, the only gripe is the somewhat static first act (which necessarily sets the scene), however, the labyrinthine plot is more than enough to keep us transfixed.

There are solid performances throughout from the raft of familiar TV faces, giving life to this seemingly disparate group of house-party guests. Veterans Paul Nicholas as Judge Wargrave and Eric Carte as retired General Mackenzie, particularly impress as do the ever-reliable Ben Nealon as the charming but dangerous cad, Philip Lombard and Mark Curry as butler Rogers. The only weak link is Kezia Burrows as secretary Vera Claythorne, in trying to capture the essence of a flighty young thing from the thirties, she careers way too far into caricature.

This is a class act from start to finish and proves that you really can’t beat a good old-fashioned murder mystery.

And Then There Were None runs at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 24th October 2015 – miss it at your peril.

Tickets: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/and-then-there-were-none/

REVIEW: Black Coffee – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It is a brave man indeed who takes on a role as synonymous with another actor as that of Hercule Poirot, but that is exactly what Jason Durr gamely does in Agatha Christie’s first play Black Coffee at the Theatre Royal this week, Christie’s only play to feature the much-loved, mustachio’d Belgian brain box.

 

Moments after a dinner party, the less than popular but spectacularly rich inventor Sir Claude Amory is dead and his plans for a new weapon of mass destruction gone.

On an elegantly Art Deco set by Simon Scullion, the plot is very much reflective of a first play but shows hints of the greatness to come and for Christie fans there are many flashes of storyline that appear fully formed in later works by the author.

blackcoffee-900

 

The plot is always key for Christie often to the detriment of the characters who can read as caricature rather than fully rounded individuals: there are several, dodgy accented, ‘Johnny Foreigner‘ types that Christie exploits to poke fun at the xenophobic times in which the play was written and upon whom suspicion of course falls for being “not like us”, but all is forgiven in the entertaining plot which is a blend of light and dark and red herrings, heavy hints, intrigue and suspicion abound throughout.

Durr is a more youthful Poirot, though all of Poirot’s idiosyncrasies are intact: the walk, the fastidiousness and of course the famous moustache, the only gripe would be that a little of the dialogue was lost at times in the accent, though in fairness the cast were not miked and the space is a large one to fill. As he carefully unravels the spider’s web of a plot he is ably supported by Robin McCallum as the “deliciously old-fashioned” and “positively pre-war” Hastings and TV regular Deborah Grant delivers an entertaining turn as the dotty Caroline, sister of the murdered Amory.

black coffee hastings poirot

 

This is an entertaining piece of fluff, perfect for an autumn evening, played out upon a delightful set with a cast of talented actors – Christie fans will not be disappointed.

Runs until Saturday 8th Nov at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Tickets: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-black-coffee/theatre-royal-glasgow/

REVIEW: The Mousetrap – Diamond Anniversary Tour, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The Mousetrap is famous around the world as being the longest running show of any kind in the history of British theatre – with over 23,000 performances. And to celebrate 60 years on stage, it’s on tour for the very first time.

The scene is set when a group of people gathered in a country house cut off by the snow discover, to their horror, that there is a murderer in their midst. One by one the suspicious characters reveal their sordid pasts until at the last, nerve shredding moment the identity and the motives are finally revealed.

From the quality cast including: Steven France, Thomas Howes, Karl Howman, Bruno Langley, Graham Seed, Jemma Walker, Jan Waters and Clare Wilkie; the beautiful period set, to the keep-you-guessing inventiveness of the script, this is good old-fashioned theatre at its very best. It is a glimpse into what theatre used to be, and if the completely packed theatre  is anything to go by, it is an example of the kind of theatre the great British public want to see. A quality product and the ideal opportunity for everyone outside London to see this British classic.  

Touring the UK until June 2013.

REVIEWS: Edinburgh Fringe – Murder, Marple and Me, Gilded Balloon Teviot Wee Room

As any Agatha Christie fan knows, the casting of comic actress Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple in the light-hearted George Pollock MGM series was widely reported by Mrs. Christie to be a grievous mistake. So unhappy was she with the whole situation, and in order to protect the reputation of her precious creation, she made frequent visits to the set to check on proceedings.

This play, set in Rutherford’s dressing room on location of the first film Murder She Said, centres around the ever-present Mrs. Christie and the rather more interesting story of Rutherford’s real life.

In one hour we touch on; mental illness; childhood trauma; murder and suicide, as well as Rutherford’s rather interesting relationships with those close to her.

Janet Prince assumes all the roles in the intimate setting of the Gilded Balloon Teviot’s Wee Room. Wee it is indeed, and the enjoyment of the experience is enhanced by the feeling that we have been personally invited into Rutherford’s dressing room to hear her recount her tales.

Prince retains focus throughout and the sometimes shocking revelations keep the interest levels up in this hour long show. I wouldn’t advise anyone without knowledge of Rutherford or Christie to go along as the main enjoyment is the feeling that you are finding out secrets you never knew about a familiar friend but well worth a viewing if you are a fan.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Murder on the Nile – King’s Theatre Glasgow 30th June 2012

Last year I went to see Verdict. It was booked at an hour’s notice and I rushed in on a rainy afternoon to see what turned out to be an excellent production by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company. This time the company, now in its seventh year, presents a stylish new production of the queen of crime’s classic thriller Murder On The Nile.

The play is based on her 1937 novel Death on the Nile, which in itself started off as a play, which Christie called Moon on the Nile. Once written, she decided it would do better as a book and she only resurrected the play version in 1942 when she was in the middle of writing the theatrical version of And Then There Were None.

The story…

“On board a steamer, cruising under the scorching Egyptian sun, honeymooners Simon Mostyn and his wealthy socialite wife Kay find themselves being pursued by an old flame of the newly-wedded groom. Then tragedy strikes. A body is discovered. And all fingers point to Simon’s ex fiancée. But everything is not what it seems!”

This is not the Death on the Nile we all know featuring Poirot, in fact, it doesn’t actually have a sleuth, just Canon Pennefather (Dennis Lill) guardian of murder victim Kay Mostyn (Suzy Amy) for whom the penny finally drops and he silently comes to the realisation whodunnit.

I can’t quite put my finger on what was amiss here but it was lacking something: It could have been the slow pace and lack of tension; it could have been the static set; it could have been the slightly stilted script or it could have been too many lackluster performances; or a combination of any or all of these things. This company has produced work of excellent quality before but this production doesn’t see them living up to their usual high standards.

Of the performances, Kate O’Mara as Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes had the best of any amusing lines to deliver but she appeared not to have stuck her teeth in properly and her slurred diction rendered most of what she said inaudible (hooray for the captioning in this performance or we’d all have been lost). The rest of the cast, though competent enough, seemed to play their parts without much contribution to character development and many were flat and one-dimensional.

That said, it was, in its way, an entertaining enough way to spend a few hours. For those going to an Agatha Christie Theatre Productions play for the first time – don’t let this deter you attending again – they can do so much more than this.

REVIEW: Verdict by Agatha Christie, King’s Theatre Glasgow 11th August 2011

“A completely original play by Agatha Christie, Verdict, eschews the mystery thriller format and is more of a melodrama. Yes there’s a murder but it is carried out onstage in front of us and Christie is much more interested in exploring the consequences of following the head and not the heart and the impact that purely intellectual reasoning can have on people.”

“Set in 1958 in the Bloomsbury flat of German émigré Professor Karl Hendryk where he lives with wife Anya, suffering from a progressively debilitating disease, and cousin Lisa who helps to care for her. Anya is bitter about having to flee her contented life in Germany due to Karl’s act of kindness to a persecuted friend and depressed about the state of her own health, so questions of suicide are raised when she dies. But his liberal attitudes to those who do him wrong push his friends to the very limit as it turns out all is not what it seems with his wife’s death and adhering so strictly to his moral code threatens those who are closest to him.”

This was booked at an hour’s notice and I’m glad I did. An interesting departure from the usual Agatha Christie whodunnit, this was gripping, atmospheric and the acting was beautifully pitched, something often lacking in productions like this. An unexpected gem on a rainy afternoon.