Salisbury Playhouse – until 14 October. Reviewed by Sharon MacDonald Armitage
When an announcement is placed in Chipping Cleghorn’s daily paper stating a murder will take place in the home of Letitia Blacklock (Janet Dibley) at 6.30pm that evening it is greeted with both incredulity and dark humour. However, despite no one having knowledge of placing the notice, it doesn’t stop a number of locals arriving at Blacklock’s house to see what ensues. Cue the striking clock, a blackout, and gunshots and you have the opening of one of Agatha Christie’s well known novels.
Adapted for stage by Leslie Darbon, there is most certainly the essence of Christie’s novel, albeit with some changes. There is the stereotypical blundering police officer, Inspector Craddock (Tom Butcher), the rather abrupt cook Mitzi (Lydia Piechowiak), the forgetful companion Dora Bunner (Sarah Thomas) and the iconic busy body Miss Marple (Louise Jameson). Peppered with a number of waifs, strays and distant family members you may think this is enough to make for a challenging evening of sleuthing and detection. However, it became a slight caricature of life in a 1950’s English village.
Janet Dibley gave a good solid performance as Blacklock and commanded the stage throughout. The set allowed for a clear view of Dibley’s stage craft and if you know the plot and outcome there are tell-tale signs of what is to come.
Louise Jameson’s Marple is an oddity as she is not the interfering, sharp of brain, little old lady we see in the novels and many TV and film adaptations. There is something rather comical and vacant about her. Rather than at the centre of the investigation, we are not shown her inquisitive skills until the final act when she starts discussing things with Inspector Craddock. This is where we see Marple as many would expect, which makes the latter part of the play more engaging.
It is difficult to know what the audience thought as there was a lot of giggling and laughing at what did not seem appropriate times. The humour was there with Piechowiak’s maid Mitzi and with Thomas’ Bunner. But it did seem the audience found humour where there was not supposed to be any.
The costumes for this production are rather charming and plentiful and totally in keeping with the era as is the set which is open and allows all characters to be seen clearly as they move around it.
Overall this is a decent production, but it lacks the finesse of an individual’s imagination when reading the novels. Those that do not know Christie’s work and do not know this plot, will possibly get more out of it than those that do.