Murder On Air – October 2009


By Agatha Christie

Directed by Joe Harmston

Company: The Agatha Christie Theatre Company

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Friday 16th October 2009

In similar fashion to the Round The Horne homage currently touring, this ‘play’ was basically a reconstruction of three Agatha Christie radio plays from the 50s, performed with the cast in full evening regalia, and with a wonderful sound effects man to one side. The three radio plays were Personal Call, The Yellow Iris, and after the interval, Butter In A Lordly Dish (it helps to know your Bible for that one).

This version of the production had Susan Penhaligon and Nicky Henson as the guest stars, and Nicky took the part of Poirot in The Yellow Iris (which later morphed into Sparkling Cyanide). The rest of the cast did a great job with their parts, including sound effects (train), background rhubarb, and shocked gasps. There was a piece of attempted humour with the music, as one of the men appeared to lose his instrument and his place, but it fell a bit flat tonight as nobody seemed to notice it and nobody laughed. The house was less than half full, so I think the lack of atmosphere had a lot to do with it.

The stories were fairly predictable. Let’s face it, a soon as you know a chap’s first wife has died in a tragic accident, and he and his second wife are making wills leaving all their dosh to each other, it’s pretty clear what’s happening. Even so, I enjoyed the way the stories were told, especially when two of the actors were talking in cockney accents while they were all dolled up in their finery. For the end of the final story, when the sound effects chap was hitting a nail into a cabbage, he kept doing it, harder and harder, as he made the closing announcement. The cabbage practically disintegrated – Steve even found a bit of cabbage on his coat at the end, and we were back in row H! I also realised why I don’t care to listen to plays on the radio. The voices, despite the actors’ different accents, are too similar. It’s easier for me to keep track of the characters and the scene changes when I can see them.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at

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