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Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced, A Miss Marple Mystery

Adapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon from the Agatha Christie novel
Middle Ground Theatre Company Ltd
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced

A bit twee, fusty and predictable—but then this is Agatha Christie—but clearly a crowd-pleaser as gasps and giggles, and many chattering happy punters applaud the final denouncement.

It’s all very faded gentry 1950s country house, with relatives and house guests galore—each with their own agenda. And of course where there is a will, there is a way to inherit, by fair means or foul.

An ad in the personal column of the local rag invites all and sundry to Little Paddocks where a murder will apparently take place at precisely 1830, and come they do: neighbours, prying visitors and family.

Chiming clocks, fused lights, shots in the dark and a masked stranger lies dead while Letitia (a cool Kazia Pelka—Heartbeat’s district nurse Maggie) nurses a bleeding ear. Who? Why? How? Such questions rather inconveniently railroad birthday plans for increasingly dotty schooldays' friend (Jenny Funnell, best known perhaps as Sandy in As Time Goes By) but a celebratory chocolate cake is still squeezed in.

Sarah Thomas (Glenda in Last of The Summer Wine) makes Miss Marple her own channelling a mildly irritating nosy knitter, appearing uninvited at apposite times but not undermining the real detective of the piece Inspector Craddock (The Bill’s PC Steve Loxton) as the spotlight is turned on poisoned asprins, Dresden shepherds, missing photographs, chocolate cake, unmarried mothers, half jars of honey and vases of dying violets.

There are the usual creaky twists and turns, questionable identities, hidden histories, failed would-be writer and Christie’s ubiquitous over-dramatic ‘foreign’ element—here a feisty maid (a touch of the ‘Allo ‘Allos by Lydia Piechowiak) claiming torture and the best recipes in an at times too thick accent.

An air of amdram prevails due to stereotypes and Leslie Darbon's script is somewhat clunky, shoehorning in clues and red herrings. There are slow scene changes (what were they doing behind the curtains for that long?) but otherwise it is quite pacy with some laugh out loud moments. Certainly a diverse, pretty full house seemed well pleased.

Reviewer: Karen Bussell