By Agatha Christie
Directed by Joe Harmston
Agatha Christie Theatre Company
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Friday 14th June 2013
No programs? What do you mean, no programs? We had to be content with a photocopied cast list and actors’ CVs – no details of the creative team, background info, nor any interesting and entertaining articles. I had to get the essential details from the flyer – good job Steve has a penchant for collecting such things.
The play is an adaptation of Five Little Pigs, a story I recognised early on. Instead of Poirot, the investigation was carried out by Carla Le Marchant (Sophie Ward) with the assistance of a solicitor, Justin Fogg (Ben Nealon). As a young girl, Carla had been sent away and her name changed after her mother, Caroline Crale, was convicted of murdering her father, Amyas Crale. Before her mother died in prison, she wrote a letter to her daughter insisting on her innocence, and now that Carla had grown up she was determined to find out who really killed her father. The solicitor did his best to convince her that, sad though it was, her mother really had done the deed but Carla was persistent, and after some initial interviews with the other potential suspects, the whole group ended up back in the very house where it all happened to re-enact the events of that time.
Sophie Ward played both Carla and Caroline, and as the other characters went over their recollection of the fatal day, Amyas (Gary Mavers) also put in a ghostly appearance to complete the picture for the audience. With Carla’s prompting, the other people came up with more information, and gradually the murderer was revealed. The play ended with the usual tableau, and without my prior knowledge I would have only spotted the murderer towards the end. I felt it was a good adaptation, and a good production as well.
The present day setting was the late 1960s, and the costumes were appropriate to that time, with Carla wearing a Mondrian-style print dress. The flashback costumes were also distinctively accurate for sixteen years earlier. The set had a simple design, with a curved back wall having upper glass panes and two or three doors; this was used for the solicitor’s office (desk and formal chairs), Lady Elsa Greer’s sitting room (sofa, tables, chairs), Philip Blake’s office (desk and chairs again), Miss Williams’ small sitting room (chairs, table and standard lamp near the front of the stage) and a restaurant for the meeting with Angela Warren. For the second half, the walls were changed to full windows, with double doors in the centre. Amyas’ easel was to the left, angled away from the audience, and a large table with his painting equipment stood behind it. Another large table was on the right, and there were various chairs and other items round the place. There was a small terrace behind the windows and a hazy blue background behind that.
There were plausible motives for most of the suspects. Philip and Meredith Blake were both in love with Caroline and could have wanted Amyas out of the way. Angela Warren was being sent away to school and was angry with Amyas for that decision, while her governess, Miss Williams, may have wanted to protect her pupil. Lady Elsa Greer, the mistress and current model, was expecting to become the next Mrs Crale but may have wanted more than she was getting. And Caroline Crale herself may have finally snapped at her husband’s excessive womanising and decided she was better off with him dead rather than divorced. All the options were kept open until the end, and I got the impression that many in the audience were surprised at the final revelation. As it should be.
There were good performances all round from an experienced cast, and this deserves to be another hit for the Agatha Christie Theatre Company.
© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me