A slow march towards murder

Go Back For Murder

New Alexandra Theatre

***

IT IS true that Agatha Christie’s stories are often described as timeless. As timeless as her stories are, the same cannot be said for this production of Go Back for Murder from The Official Agatha Christie Theatre Company.

Based on Christie’s 1942 novel Five Little Pigs the play tells the story of a young Canadian girl Carla Crale (Sophie Ward) who arrives in England with a single letter from her late mother,  a host of questions and the mystery of who killed her father.

Directed by Joe Harmston, the production looked promising during the first few minutes of action, with a well-crafted set and lighting design by Simon Scullion and Douglas Kuhrt, which created everything from offices to houses and even travelled in time between 1968 and 1948.

Not much else can be said for the first Act because, frankly, not much happened. There was potential for it to be so much more; this is our first introduction to the complex and emotionally charged characters and indeed our opportunity to understand the background of the mystery to be solved.

Instead, we were presented with what could be described as a wordy recital with no feeling and boring delivery. One audience member thought it a better use of their time to fall asleep in the seat beside me. We go through a series of episodic scenes as Carla interviews those she believes to be connected with her parents in the past, trying to tie new information to the little knowledge of the past she had gained from her mother’s letter.

WONDERFULLY TALENTED

There was however a flash of hope in Act One with the entrance of the wonderfully talented Lysette Anthony, as Lady Elsa Greer, the mistress of Carla’s late father, Amyas Crale. Anthony really is the best part of the first act (and possibly the rest of the play) as she dominates the stage, catching every eye, not only seducing Amyas, but the whole audience with her brilliant costumes - and great legs.

After the interval, things started to pick up with act two a vast improvement on the lifeless first act as the tale of moder past is played out before us.

Carla’s solicitor, Justin Fogg, played by Ben Nealon, becomes the narrator of the story in classic murder mystery seriousness, complete with impressive spotlights for intensity purposes, as he guides us through the events and happenings of 1949.

Sophie Ward, Carla in the first Act,  now becomes her own mother, Caroline Crale, a clever device by Harmston. It is the audience who are now Carla, watching past events and solving the mystery for themselves.

We are also introduced to Carla’s father Amyas Crale, played by Gary Mavers  who is a pleasure to watch as he instils his complex  character with an enthusiastic spark and great vigour. 

In the relationship between the women Anthony shows us that her Lady Elsa Greer is not just the playful tease we seemed to watch in the previous act, but a frighteningly dark woman with extremely highly passions. All is not what it seems between Amyas, his wife and the mistress as we see in a revealing and unexpected plot twist at the end.

Miss Williams, played by the extremely popular and equally talented Liza Goddard is the friend to all and the catalyst that started the excitable twist. Goddard injects well needed fun and comedy to her scenes and makes the audience feel that she is the overseer of the mysterious plot. Miss Williams is a motherly figure to all, both present and past. Her sweet exterior is a mask to cover the knowledge she holds.

The second act is somewhat of a reward for the droning first half of the play. The revealing elements mixed with pleasurable performances from some of the cast make for enjoyable viewing but it is still a hardship to wait out the first act until after the sanctuary of the interval. To 30-11-13.

Elizabeth Halpin

 

Meanwhile, making further inquiries . . .

***

WHILE this Agatha Christie whodunit is littered with the usual suspects, it never really lives up to its promise.

That could be something to do with the fact that story takes so long to develop after Carla Le Merchant pops in to see the family solicitor 20 years after her artist father died from poisoning.

She is convinced that her late mother, jailed for the crime, was innocent and manages to arrange for all the people at their home that day to return to Alderbury House on the south coast in the hope that the truth will come out.

Sophie Ward, wearing a strange designer dress of the time, is reasonably convincing as Carla, but the most impressive performance comes from Ben Nealon, best known for his role as Lt Forsythe in the TV drama series Soldier Soldier.

He is full of energy and enthusiasm in the role of Justin Fogg, the solicitor satisfied that the original verdict was correct but prepared to help his client take a closer look at what happened on the day Carla's womanising father Amyas Crale (Gary Mavers) died. Inevitably there is a surprise outcome.

Good performances too from Lysette Anthony (Lady Elsa Greer) and Liza Goddard (Miss Williams), and the sets are good for this latest touring production by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company. To 30-11-13.

Paul Marston 

Home Alex  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre