A thriller with a deadly twist

Who killed “Agatha” Christie?

Wolverhampton Grand

****

WHEN a vitriolic critic finds himself trapped in a flat with a playwright he has much maligned over the years he has probably worked out that he is not in for an easy ride.

But Arthur "Agatha" Christie would hardly be expecting the threat of murder to hang so heavily in the air particularly as the writer he has so unmercifully pilloried, John Terry, seems so mild mannered, if a little adrift from being described as sane.

That is the scenario Tudor Gates sets for the audience in his clever thriller. With just two actors and only one scene it needs something special to grip an audience for an hour and a half but Neil Roberts as the upper-class, gay critic Arthur Christie and Stephen Rashbrook as the homicidal and frighteningly sane writer John Terry manage it in some style.

The performance itself is an impressive feat of memory with so many lines to learn but not once did we have a stumble,  pause or hesitation , as they would say in Just a Minute.

The dialogue was crisp and like a game of verbal ping pong as the two men spar their way through the ingenious plot. We even have regular laughs, usually at Christie’s expense, as Terry enjoys turning the tables on the critic who has now become his quarry.

Deadly game: Stephen Rashbrook (left) as the writer John Terry and his prey, critic Arthur Christie played by Neil Roberts

We see the harmless, slightly weird Terry grow into a scheming killer bent on revenge while the initially arrogant, confident Christie is reduced to a gibbering wreck.

There is no shouting or histrionics as Terry turns from writer to murderer, just words which, for Christie, who prided himself on his use of language and clever turn of phrase, must have made it even more frightening as complaints about his critiques turned to threats on his life by just a turn of phrase.

Christie has been lured to the flat by the promise of information and evidence about the infidelity of his lover and finds himself as the unwilling accomplice in a double murder only to find a double killing is to become a triple homicide with himself as the final victim.

Not only that but he has even unwittingly taken steps to provide an alibi for Terry and to assist in covering up his own death.

But as in any good thriller nothing is quite as it seems and we even have a twist at the end in the very final line in what is a well written and finely structured play. Excellent stuff.

This is the third in the four-play Ian Dickens’s season which is ends with a new adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ A Woman in White next week. To Saturday, July 16.

Roger Clarke 

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