New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
The Agatha Christie Theatre Company
7th - 12th July 2014
Agatha Christie’s first and only play featuring the well-loved famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot comes this week to the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.
First performed in 1930 this classic ‘who-dunnit?’ sees Hercule Poirot (Jason Durr) called to the country residence of famous inventor, Sir Claud Amory (Ric Recate) to investigate the theft of his new explosives formula. As Sir Claud calls his family and guests together, following dinner, to announce Poirot’s arrival to solve this theft he is poisoned by the after dinner coffee! Here enters Poirot with his ever faithful but somewhat hapless sidekick, Captain Hastings (Robin McCallum), to solve the murder!
As soon as we entered the auditorium the sound of classic music from the period transported the audience directly to that fabulous, flamboyant time in history; a brilliant touch that got everyone in the mood for a night of glamour murder and mystery. Immediately, the audience knew they were in for a wonderful timeless Christie mystery.
The revealing of the set did not disappoint either; a elegant art-deco inspired library with geometric shapes in the artwork, carpets, ornaments and lighting, just the thing to welcome our detective for the evening– congratulations must go to Simon Scullion on this design.
As with every classic ‘who-dunnit’ there are several suspects all with credible reasons to be held under suspicion as to whether they killed Sir Claud or not: Richard Amory his son (Ben Nealon), Lucia Amory (Olivia Mace) with her secret past, Barbara Amory his niece (Felicity Houlbrooke) who’s character was splendidly acted as the ‘bright young thing’ of the age, Dr Carelli (Gary Mavers) Edward Raynor his secretary (Mark Jackson). Also a special mention to the delightfully played suspect of Miss Caroline Amory (Liza Goddard) who lit up the stage as she entered as the dotty dowager beautifully, giving the audience some fantastic lighter moments with her amusing one liners.
The plot as with all great mysteries was littered with twists and turns, clues and red-herrings, all keeping the audience guessing throughout the performance.
It is a brave actor that takes on such a famous role as that of Poirot, as for the last 25 years we have all come to associate the role with David Suchet. However hats must be removed to Jason Durr, who takes on this role splendidly bringing out all the quirky mannerisms of this well- loved detective and Durr did well to keep up that lilting Flemish accent although sometimes a little hard to keep up with.
The relationship between Poirot and Hastings on stage was wonderful and acted just as it should have been with Poirot being somewhat exasperated by him but Hastings always there as his faithful companion; Robin McCallum did an excellent job of being Durr’s sidekick.
It was fabulously refreshing to see all actors using their natural projection during the whole performance of Black Coffee rather than being ‘miked- up’, which is becoming much more the norm these days.
The two short intervals, not normally seen these days in theatre, worked well on reflection, giving the audience the time to ponder their own theories and deductions of who the murder could be?
In summary a delightful night out at the theatre if you like a good, classic, stylish who-dunnit which stays ever faithful to Agatha Christie’s intended characterisation – just remember to keep an eye on your coffee cup!