VERDICT: Agatha Christie
Runs: 2h 20m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, Wolverhampton Grand, 26 February 2011
As much of a surprise as it is fascinatingHow strange is this? A play by the Queen of Whodunnits in which there’s no murder-mystery, and a murder about which there’s no doubt and is of only secondary importance to the main business of the play? And the main business of the play? – A debate about the nature of love, of duty, of forgiveness and retribution. About the nature of being in a way. Yes . . . I am talking about Agatha Christie.
The setting isn’t promising. Prof Hendryk, refugee from, most likely Hungary, lives with his wheelchair-bound wife and adoring Assistant. Into the circle comes the daughter of a wealthy businessman; she declares herself in love with the Professor. Mrs Hendryk is murdered in front of us . . . But will the right person be found guilty?
Although a tad unlikely the setting is the setting of a popular, well made play of the 50s. (Except this play was never a success.) But Christie clearly – and clearly consciously – subverts her Whodunnit form to debate her issues. An older woman in love with her husband who loves her, and a younger woman in love with the husband in an unconsummated relationship. Director, Joe Harmston, points out that this mirrors Christie’s own life to a great extent. Hmmm. Intruiging.
Harmston, sure-handedly, plays down the period melodrama and confidently explores a more measured, unforced pace. He gives the themes space to breathe.
In this he is ably assisted by a strong acting team. Robert Duncan gives a terrific performance as the Professor; he exudes confidence without overplaying and convinces us of a man certain in his beliefs. When his certainties are shattered Duncan summons deep emotions to great effect. Dawn Steele (Assistant Lisa) moves unobtrusively around in the background for much of the first half; this is not poor acting but clever shaping. Her stature grows into the second half as she takes command of our attention. We do care about these people.
All quite fascinating.
Lester Cole: Matthew Lewis
Mrs Roper: Elizabeth Power
Lisa Koletzky: Dawn Steele
Professor Karl Hendryk: Robert Duncan
Doctor Stoner: Mark Wynter
Anya Hendryk: Cassie Raine
Helen Rollander: Ali Bastian
Sir William Rollander:: Martin Carroll
Detective Inspector Ogden: Andrew Malkin
Police Sergeant Pearce: Mark Martin
Direcgor: Joe Harmston
Designer: Simon Scullion
Lighting Designer: Mide Robertson
Sound Designer: Matthew Bugg
Costume Designer: Martin Clarke