Murder’s no laughing matter

Jason Durr

Jason Durr brings a little handsome dash to Belgian sleuth Poirot

Black Coffee

The New Alexandra Theatre

****

IF the audience numbers are anything to go by, then the draw of an Agatha Christie murder mystery still seems to have the power to pull them in.

Or perhaps it’s the fact that the dashing Jason Durr has taken over the role of the famous Hercule Poirot from Robert Powell on this tour, which has added a touch of contemporary wit to the proceedings.

Whatever the case, at this current production of Black Coffee, by Bill Kenright’s Agatha Christie Theatre Company, there was a healthy cross section of ages in attendance to witness the murderous  goings on in this stylish 1920’s Art Deco home.

It certainly seems to cater for everyone .From the glamorous costumes by Nikki Bird to the elegant setting by Simon Scullion it’s a visual treat, but what really keeps this production awake is the well timed humour.

It takes a while to get going but as soon as scientist and inventor Sir Claud Amory, played by Ric Recate ,has been rendered to a comfortably seated corpse, much to the almost casual indifference of his family and house guests , then with the arrival of Hercule  Poirot  things begin to liven up.

Previous takes on Christies’ Poirot have left us with the image of a neat, portly man and with a not exactly Bond- like demeanour. Here though, even carrying a few mild aches and pains of an older man, Jason Durr seemed more fitting as an elegant and handsome version of the detective. 

SIMPLE GESTURES

With a few simple gestures he seemed to be able to create a sense of fun and amusing dismay at his findings in his suspects which were all a welcome addition to what is largely an uncreative plot.

Liza Goddard was equally frivolous at times as the deceased’s sister, lady Caroline. With her un-politically correct references to foreigners, all written remember in a time of the British Empire, she got the audience laughing, possibly more out of pent up relief than in actual content.

Olivia Mace played Lucia, the glamorous yet troubled heroine and seemingly obvious suspect, and she has a timeless quality about her and her performance that reminded me of Grace Kelly.

Poirot’s friend and sidekick Captain Hastings played by Robin McCallum, was a very fresh upper crust chap. Although there was a slight age difference between himself and Felicity Holbrooke who plays the totally spiffing niece Barbara, together they found the opportunity to inject some youthful romance into the dark proceedings. 

The son Richard Amory is played by Ben Nealon and with some of the other players not quite being heard on stage Nealon thankfully was clear and crisper than his starched collar in the role. One casualty to volume was Gary Mavers as Dr Carelli. Mavers although handsome, well attired and slicker than a can of WD40, was hard to understand at times with his drifting Italian accent.

Overall this is a very smart and entertaining show and though some Christie purists might indeed wag a critical finger at the light hearted direction by Joe Harmston, for me it worked really well. In fact I had no need of black coffee at all as in the end it was the combination of humour and 1920s elegance and at other times some teenagers rustling bag of sweets and a mobile phone behind me, that kept me from nodding off. To 12-07-14

Jeff Grant

07-07-14  

Contents page  Grand Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre