The Mirror Crack’d Review

Festival Theatre, Malvern – until 19th November 2022

Reviewed Courie Amado Juneau

4.5 ****

Arguably the best known Marple, “The Mirror Crack’d” was first published by Christie in 1962 before finding a very admiring audience on the big screen when Angela Lansbury took on the title role in a truly star studded cast. Further small screen adaptations ensued (for BBC and ITV) each changing the original novel in subtle ways.

This new adaptation, by Rachel Wagstaff, makes much more dramatic changes to both the plot and the dramatis personae. For instance, in the original novel there were 3 children adopted and one of them was at the party. In this new adaptation both of those facts have changed! And the name of the first victim changed from Badcock to Lee, which took my attention away from the action on stage as I pondered this. Overall, though, the changes did make dramatic sense but purests who know the original well may balk at the liberties taken with the source material.

One thing that did not change was Miss Marple’s razor sharp sleuthing from her armchair and her busybody status. They even managed to weave in the old running joke regarding just what exactly an elderly spinster, member of the public, was doing at the scene of a crime interrogating witnesses – I enjoyed that. Susie Blake gave us everything we would expect (and more) from our lead character, regaling us with a very pleasing portrayal with believable sympathetic overtones and emotional gravitas – especially in the scene where she recounts her former lost love.

The play was almost a psychological drama and social commentary within the framework of the original novel introducing such a la mode topics as self harm, lesbianism, snobbery, nimbyism… The highlights for me were Marple and her friend, Dolly Bantry (played with an almost “I don’t believe it” air by Veronica Roberts), giving us some delicious on stage chat, especially when they went off piste i.e. discussing Dolly’s children or with Dolly reacting to “new fangled ideas”. Beautifully written drama, giving us warmth, humour and a genuinely warm chemistry beffiting their longstanding fictional friendship.

All the cast were wonderful but special mention must go to Chief Inspector Craddock, played with gusto by Oliver Boot. I particularly loved his exasperated asides to his medling “Aunt Jayne”.

The stylized direction from Philip Franks allowed Marple to be in the action (on stage) for every scene but it did at times feel like the suspects were lined up like pieces in a game of Cluedo! I really enjoyed seeing the testimony scenes re-enacted rather than just as a monologue, giving us a filmic quality which was welcome and pushed the action along nicely.

It is always a pleasure to see an old friend hit the stage and Christie never disappoints. This new adaptation is a fine night out which I thoroughly recommend. Glad rags on, strawberry daiquiri in hand and enjoy yourself heartily – elbow bumps not kisses perhaps… Go see this wonderful play, you won’t regret it!