The Haymarket, Basingstoke – until 2 November 2019
Reviewed by Heather Chalkley
An outstanding piece of writing by Phillip Meeks, capturing the essence of Agatha Christie, Margaret Rutherford and the character of Miss Marple. As well as encapsulating true stories of both women’s life, there are many nods to their pasts, humorously delivered, that you have to concentrate on to pick up.
Rutherford’s famously distinctive facial expressions, are skilfully mimicked by Sarah Parks. Parks takes on the physicality of Rutherford through her mannerisms, posture and voice – no small feat. The funny moments are delivered naturally by Parks (Rutherford), as if she has just thought of them. Lin Blakely gives Christie a depth of emotional intelligence, particularly when revelling in the macabre and expressing difficult experiences, that she is so desperate to share. Katherine Senior is a believable Miss Marple, sitting between these two great women, providing the ethereal connection they need to become friends, eventually confidants.
The depiction of such strong characters is accentuated by the costumes. The set reflects well the country home of the era, although the busyness is distracting at times. I wonder if all the comings and goings of tables and chairs is totally necessary.
Because the play is based on the life and times of real people, it leaves you with unanswered questions and titbits of information that you just want to go away and research. At a poignant moment Christie (Parks) describes how she sees the fleeting deep sorrow sweep across Rutherford’s face. She recognises it because of her own painful secret. A quote from Rutherford herself, outside of the play, reflects this line “Every great clown has been very near tragedy.” For two people who never really wanted to meet, they are curiously close in their outlook.