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.
“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.