Slow death by appointment

Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced

Malvern Theatres

***

The problem with putting on an Agatha Christie murder mystery is that the audience will always be comparing the Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot to their favourite version from television or the silver screen.

This new adaptation by Middle Ground Theatre Company is a case in point.

Taking on the mighty role of Marple is Judy Cornwell, better known as lovable Daisy in BBC's comedy Keeping Up Appearances.

She perfected dotty to a tee, but the acute sharpnesJudy Cornwells associated with this astute detective was sadly missing.

I also wasn't completely sure if all of the "dizziness" was acting as Cornwell stumbled over several of her lines and couldn't remember the word accomplice at one point, coming up with a bizarre alternative.

This caper involves an advert being placed in a local newspaper announcing a murder at 6.30pm on Friday night at a grand house in the area.

Judy Cornwell as Miss Jane Marple

The various village residents are a mixture of bemused and frightened, no more so than when a gunman turns up and sets off a string of deathly events.

This play has been adapted to the stage by Leslie Darbon, but has been slightly amended to fit into a two and a half hour slot. Sadly, for the blood-thirsty among us, this means there's a lower body count and slightly less characters than seen in other versions.

Despite this, the production has a polished, grandiose look about it and, overall, there's a strong cast of actors playing the suspects. Diane Fletcher as Letitia Blacklock, Tom Butcher (a regular in The Bill) as Inspector Craddock, and Lydia Piechowiak as the the eccentric Eastern European maid Mitzi are particularly impressive.

The death knoll to this production, however, is that it falls short on tension and pace.

Deliberations are often very slow by Miss Marple and the red herrings aren't given an explanation before the close of the play. To 05-09-15

Alison Brinkworth

02-09-15

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