By Agatha Christie
Directed by Joe Harmston
The Agatha Christie Theatre Company
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: Friday 4th May 2012
Closely related to Death On The Nile – same plot, similar characters, but no Poirot – this production had a lovely set and mostly good performances, making for an enjoyable evening out. It was written by Agatha Christie herself, and she deliberately chose to keep Poirot to the book, using Canon Pennefather as the ‘detective’ in the stage version. All the action took place on the observation deck, magnificently recreated on stage, so Louise had to be shot through the screen across the bar, and the injured Simon Mostyn had to be carried from Dr Bessner’s room a couple of times to take part in the action, but these adjustments all worked just fine.
Kate O’Mara made full use of Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes’s snobbery to give us most of the funny lines and looks of the evening; her grimace of social disappointment when the Canon turned out to be one of the Shropshire Pennefathers, was lovely. Dennis Lill as the Canon made a good substitute for Poirot, and although it meant we couldn’t go into detail on the potential embezzlement motive, he had the necessary level of authority to hold the investigation together. Chloe Newsome did very well as Jacqueline, although her maniacal laugh in the first act could do with a bit more practice, and Ben Nealon, a company regular, hit all the right notes as Simon Mostyn, the husband of the murdered woman. Susie Amy’s lack of experience on stage showed in her rather stilted performance as Kay Mostyn, but as she was killed before the interval that didn’t matter too much, while Vanessa Morley dropped all the right hints as the maid, Louise. Jennifer Bryden and Max Hutchinson were very good as the potential young lovers, and Mark Wynter was a fine Dr Bessner. Hambi Pappas and Sydney Smith were surprisingly strong as the two Arabs who represented the crew (these parts are notoriously undercast as a rule), and while we knew the solution in advance, there’s a good chance that anyone who didn’t would be kept guessing till the final revelation.
The play ended with the lights going out and a single shot being fired – nicely ambiguous. I was aware that there was much less investigation than in the book and film, but that’s inevitable given the limitations of the medium. There was still plenty of psychological content, such as Kay’s inability to recognise guilt when she felt it, while the strong complaints about financiers running people’s lives were totally relevant today (sadly). Even though we’d seen this play way back in the 1980s, neither of us could remember those productions, so it’s safe to say this is the best version so far for us.
© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me