More mysteries than expected
The Unexpected Guest
The Grange Players
Grange Playhouse, Walsall
AGATHA Christie has given us a guest who is certainly unexpected but
even more inexplicable for much of the evening. It did not seem to make
sense that a total stranger who turns up after having a car accident
should allow himself to be drawn into a murder mystery when most of us
would have made our excuses and left.
But the guest, on whose
behalf Richard Howell is parading under the remarkable name of Michael
Starkwedder, proves pretty rapidly to be a bonus in Dexter Whitehead's
production. Both in the first scene and in the last, he and Zoe Maisey,
as Laura, provide a busy conversational exchange that is excellently
handled – with Starkwedder becoming somewhat surprisingly touch-feely
towards the woman he has only just met in the most trying of
It is also
surprising to find that the meat of the sandwich, despite being so
efficiently wrapped, cannot lay claim to equalling its packaging. This
is due to the two-man police force which turns up to try to ascertain
who shot the man in his wheelchair. It is less in evidence after the
interval, but before then Inspector Thomas (David Stone) has proffered
an unnervingly slow delivery, keeping us on the edge of our seats in
case he doesn't make it to the end of his sentence.
Sergeant Cadwallader (Martin Groves), while he does have some
intentionally amusing moments, gives tongue in a manner hinting at what
René in ‘Allo ‘Allo might do if he were required to produce a
Welsh accent. Moreover, there is clearly an unusual relationship between
these two outposts of the constabulary, because while the inspector is
standing up and purposefully pursuing his enquiries the sergeant is
sitting at ease in an armchair with the ankle of one leg draped across
the knee of the other.
the outlook is brighter. Joseph Cryan provides a lively account of Jan
Warwick, the younger brother of the murdered man – hard-pressed to
contain his excitement at all the sudden goings-on. Rachel Garratt and
Chas Burnell do well as the housekeeper and matriarchal figure
respectively, and Adrian Venables is required to come up with a
diffident line in blackmail as Henry Angell.
Woodward has the right degree of confidence as Julian Farrar, the
would-be MP – yellow Liberal tie and all.
There is, inevitably, the Christie twist at the end – but it is odd that Dame Agatha, having required the inspector to refuse to allow one of his other interviewees to be present when he was about to question young Jan Warwick, was happy for him not to bat an eyelid when Laura arrived to sit in on the action. It all takes place on the pleasing set that Martin Groves has designed.To 22.5.10.
And a fairly unwelcome guest . . .
(not Mr Marston of course)
THERE was an unexpected extra mystery at two performances of this Agatha Christie thriller - how the splendid cast managed to cope with the blaring music and vocal noise from a funfair in the adjacent Arboretum extension.
It penetrated the theatre walls, was distracting for the audience, but the actors never faltered and made sure every word was heard until the fair closed at the end of the first act. The fair moved on at the weekend, thankfully.
What seems an improbable start to the play, with a stranger crashing his car in night-time fog, wandering through the unlocked rear doors of Richard and Laura Warwick's South Wales home, discovering a murder and then helping the attractive widow concoct an alibi, is cleared up in the final scene, after another death.
In typical Christie style, the suspects come thick and fast and David Stone, playing Inspector Thomas, has his hands full investigating who shot the wheelchair-bound Mr Warwick.
Zoe Maisey gives a compelling performance as Laura who at first tells the stranger, Michael Starkwedder, well played by Richard Howell, that she has committed the crime. But the plot quickly thickens.
Joseph Cryan is excellent as Warwick's retarded half brother, Jan, and there is a sound contribution from Chas Burnell, who took on the role of Mrs Warwick senior at short notice. But the Welsh accent of Martin Groves (Sgt Cadwallader) remains a mystery!
The set, splendidly designed by Martin Groves, is beautifully constructed for the play directed by Dexter Whitehead and produced by Chris Waters. To 22.5.10
The funfair made its presence known on Friday and Saturday, the second and third nights of the production. It was not in evidence on opening night.
www.grangeplayhouse.co.uk 01922 649168