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.
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.
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