A slow, lingering death

Go Back For Murder 

The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

** 

MOST of us enjoy a good whodunit? and there is no greater exponent of the ‘murder mystery' genre than Agatha Christie.  

Audiences love her and so, for that reason,  do theatre producers. A clever move, then, from Bill Kenwright who has secured exclusive touring rights of Christie's work, including permission to use her signature above the title.

Go back For Murder is the stage version of Christie's 1942 novel, Five Little Pigs. In the play, Christie drops her trusted detective, Hercule Poirot and replaces him with a young lawyer, Justin Fogg. It's a change that doesn't work and one that denies the audience of a formula they know and love  . . . i.e.  an assorted bunch of folk are drawn together;  a murder takes place; a detective is called; he summons them  all  and reveals, eventually, who did it and why. It is simple stuff but often beautifully written and laden with just the right amount of red herrings to keep the audience guessing right up to the end.

In this case, the chronology of events is different. We know from the long and slow first scene that a murder has been committed. Some time ago, in fact.  That established, the action then rewinds some 16 years to play out the various events and possible motives leading to the crime.

Perhaps, in this case, it is simply a matter of  the play not working in the way the novel did but all too often scenes are poorly structured and lacking in tension. Characters are just not interesting enough to hold attention and the plot fails to supply any real suspense.

The acting often borders on inflated melodrama and few characters instill any audience sympathy.

Die hard Agatha Christie fans will love it simply because she wrote it. Sadly, that does not mean its a good play or one that works in the way that so many of her brilliant stories did.  In truth, it is far from her best work.

All that said, this is chance to see a little performed play from one of our greatest and most prolific writers. As ever at The Grand Theatre, the first night audience was hugely supportive and no doubt will continue to be so throughout the run.

Go Back For Murder runs to 09-02-13.

Tom Roberts 

Meanwhile another clue . . .

***

QUEEN of crime writers Agatha Christie turns the daughter of a victim into an amateur sleuth in this sometimes confusing murder mystery.

Carla Le Marchant decides to carry out her own investigation into the poisoning of her father 20 years ago because she is convinced of her late mother's innocence.

Before dying in prison, Mrs Caroline Crale wrote to her daughter insisting that she didn't commit the crime, so Carla, played by Sophie Ward, enlists family solicitor Justin Fogg (Ben Nealon) to track down all the people who were with the couple at Alderbury House in the south of England when artist father died.

As contacts are made, the first act drags somewhat, but the pace accelerates after the interval when the five suspects agree to return to the scene of the crime in a bizarre attempt to decide who really did it.

For the sake of the story Amyas Crale (Gary Mavers) and his wife (also played by Sophie Ward) have to be brought 'back from the dead' so that the group can re-enact what happened on that fateful day, and the real culprit is uncovered.

At various points during the second act the audience are dazzled by powerful lights to trigger a pause in the action so that solicitor Fogg can step forward to the edge of the stage and update them. Presumably in case Agatha Christie has baffled 'em. To 09.02.13

Paul Marston 

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