Darlington Hippodrome – until 14 September 2019
When it comes to Miss Marple I am a bit of a purist. I believe the BBC adaptation starring Joan Hickson to be the best versions of Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth. And this version, adapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon and performed by Middle Ground Theatre Company was a joy to watch.
Set in 1950, we arrive at the home of Letitia Blacklock on Friday the 13th to the announcement in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette that “A Murder is Announced”. The murder is due to take place at 6.30pm at Little Paddocks that very evening. Taking care to prepare food for the villagers who are bound to just ‘drop in’, neighbours gather at 6.30pm and the scene is set for the imminent murder.
Letty Blacklock (Kazia Pelka) owns Little Paddocks in the village of Chipping Cleghorn. Upper middle class and, as we discover, destined to inherit a fortune. Also living at the house are old school friend Dora “Bunny” Bunner (Jenny Funnell), her much younger cousins – sister and brother – Julia and Patrick (Lucy Evans and Patrick Simmons), Phillipa Haymes (Emma Fernell), a war widow working locally as a gardener, and Mitzi (Lydia Piechowiak), a Middle European refugee and Letitia’s cook. Village friends Mrs Swettenham (Cara Chase) and her son Edmund (Tom Gibbons) are in the house by 6.30 to witness the murder – allegedly by hotel employee Rudi Scherz (Adam Lloyd-James).
A clue at the very beginning discovered by Inspector Craddock (Tom Butcher) and Sergeant Mellors (Jog Maher) is that apart from Bunny, all the other people at the house have only really been in the village and known to Letty for around 3 months. Whilst she knew of Patrick and Julia (her cousins) she hadn’t seen them since they were tiny children.
Enter Miss Marple (Sarah Thomas). Demonstrating just the right amount of dottiness to hide the steel trap of mind she has. Seeing and hearing everything – little nuances and characteristics. Side stepping red-herrings and keeping one step ahead of the police as she solves the crime and nails the killer.
For me this was a glorious interpretation, made even better by the fabulous set and stunning costumes all designed by Director Micheal Lunney. Overall, Middle Ground Theatre Company have excelled themselves in this tantalising and atmospheric production of Darbon’s show. The play, running in Darlington until Saturday 14 September and around the UK, showcases clear hard work and talent all around, from an impressive set, to engaging performances to the effective buildup of tension through out, A Murder Is Announced is not one to be missed as it brings to life the excitement and intrigue of the murder mystery genre.