by Agatha Christie adapted by Louise Page.

The Mill at Sonning To 22 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 8.15pm (diner 6.30pm). Mat Sat & Sun (not 2 May) 2.15pm (lunch 12.30pm).
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0118 969 8000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 April.

Idyllic rural home … only the lady has bad dreams.
Agatha Christie was a cultured lady – it wasn’t chance that led to her longest-running play coming to be called The Mousetrap. Similarly, her 1924 short-story Philomel Cottage implies both awareness of Philomel as a name for the nightingale and the bloody legend behind the association. Christie doesn’t spell this out, though Louise Page, in her new version, does.

Frank Vosper coined the title Love from a Stranger for his 1936 stage adaptation (filmed the year after with music by Benjamin Britten and a cast including a later TV Miss Marple, Joan Hickson). Page keeps closer to Christie than did Vosper, restoring original character names, cutting added people – there’s only one here not in Philomel Cottage: Fran, who stirs things emotionally when Alix rejects stolid, dependable but unforthcoming suitor Dick in favour of an exciting newcomer.

Psychology was rarely a Christie strong-point but she uses Alix’s violent dream convincingly. The play mentions it but without making is as forceful in the denouement. It’s here that Page, after laying the story out, with some tidying for stage purposes, makes her major departure, focusing exclusively on Alix rather than the forces of love, law and order.

She also turns this into something of a clinical case history. There are early clues to the reality about the new arrival at the cottage, though neither Chloe Newsome’s happy and loving Alix nor the audience is likely to pick them up while the mood remains happy.

But tidiness and order, the insistence on meticulous planning, come to register as part of something darker. David Michaels gears the change smoothly, while Peter Moreton personifies dull decency as Dick, Dido Miles has an apt tea-shop tartness as Page’s creation Fran, and Struan Rodger shows a slow sureness as elderly gardener George.

Andy de la Tour’s production, wreathed in brilliant daylight and soft twilights by Matthew Biss’s lighting, introduces gently sinister music atmospherically, and serves the script well, though more might be made of Alix becoming involved in her own creation, thereby perhaps uncovering something in herself behind the sunny exterior. But all is faithful enough to Christie’s world.

Alix: Chloe Newsome.
Fran: Dido Miles.
Dick: Peter Moreton.
Gerald: David Michaels.
George: Struan Rodger.

Director: Andy de la Tour.
Designer: Terry Parsons.
Lighting: Matthew Biss.
Costume: Jane Kidd.

2010-04-20 11:52:42

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