Venue: ARTS Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Wed 7 to Sat 10, Wed 14 to Sat 17th September, 2pm matinees on Saturdays
Duration: 2hrs 20min incl interval
Tickets: adult $25/conc $20
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Agatha Christie's famous murder mystery play has been running non-stop for nearly six decades in London. For the next couple of weeks you do not have to travel half way around the world to see it as it has come to Adelaide. The play has a twist ending and patrons have always been asked not to reveal 'whodunit', which worked quite well, until the Internet came along. In true Christie style, it has more red herrings than a trawler could carry and, of course, the twist in the tale.
As the lights go up we find that we are looking into a large hall, with a fire raging against the snow falling outside the window. It is late January in the winter of 1952. Nick Spottiswoode's elaborate set, lit by Denise Lovick, looks good enough to be real and sets the scene admirably.
We discover that we are at Monkswell Manor where a young couple, Mollie and Giles Ralston, are running it as a guest house, this being their first night in business. Their guests soon start to arrive: Christopher Wren, Mrs. Boyle, Major Metcalf and Miss Casewell. They soon have an extra, unexpected guest, Mr. Paravicini, who says that his car has overturned in a snowdrift nearby. They hear of a murder in London and soon after they receive a telephone call from the police saying that an officer is on his way, as they believe that the murderer is heading in that direction. Detective Sergeant Trotter fights his way through the snowstorm on skis to investigate. Then Mrs. Boyce is murdered and they realise that the murderer is one of the them. They find that the telephone is cut off, leaving them isolated.
Director, Norman Caddick, has nicely captured the style of the well-off of the 1950s, and his cast do a fine job in depicting the social mores of the era. Alicia Zorkovic and Stephen Bills play the idealist young couple, the Ralstons, who are naively unaware of the problems that they might encounter when running a guest house. They make a good pairing and their work together, as everybody becomes more and more suspicious of the others, with their relationship under increasing pressure, and as they even begin to suspect each other, builds well as their characters deepen.
Oliver de Rohan is Christopher Wren, a rather strange and flamboyant young man who claims to have been named after the famous architect. His interpretation and timing are spot on, showing us all of the aspects of this elusive man as he goes from being the comedian in the group, to a suspect, to a sad young man.
Lindy leCornu gives us a thoroughly unpleasant Mrs. Boyle, constantly complaining about everything and everybody. Any hotelier or guest who has encountered somebody like this would no doubt consider her murder to be justifiable homicide. LeCornu catches the character perfectly, resisting any temptation to make her a mere caricature.
Nigel Starck plays retired military man, Major Metcalf, who interacts with the others, yet reveals almost nothing about himself. Starck presents us with an upright and strong character that, nonetheless, has something about him that raises doubts in the mind.
Allison Scharber is Miss Casewell, outwardly strong and independent, rather masculine, but who reveals to the Major that she had a traumatic childhood before going to live abroad for most of her life. Scharber covers this change from the outer strength to a revelation of her insecurities with subtlety.
Philip Lineton is in his element as the eccentric, over the top Mr. Paravicini, an oddball with a suspiciously uneven accent and a shaky explanation of his presence who worries the others by announcing that the snow is so heavy that there will be nobody else arriving.
Lee Cook is brusque and no nonsense as Detective Sergeant Trotter, efficiently taking charge and setting in motion his investigation to find the murderer. Cook's interpretation offers us a convincing characterisation of a rather unusual detective, one who is believably willing to go beyond the normal call of duty and travel through a snowstorm on skis.
It is not likely that this play will be seen again in Adelaide in a hurry. The season has already been extended, so the chances of getting a ticket are very slim, but you should certainly try.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.