Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Book Night 2014

Tonight in the UK and Ireland is World Book Night. One of the 20 books selected is Agatha Christie's bestselling novel After the Funeral,  a Poirot mystery. The purpose of the event is to read one of the books selected, which are available to pick up at local libraries and schools, and discuss. I myself have read After the Funeral (yesterday in fact) and will be aiming to discuss the book on twitter tonight.

The new edition,  that has a wonderful new cover,  has a special introduction by Sophie Hannah. It reads “In a poll conducted by the Crime Writer’s Association in November 2013 to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, Agatha Christie was voted ‘Best Ever Author’. Any other result would, frankly, have been rather a joke. Christie’s novels have sold more than two billion copies in 109 languages (and probably more). Her play The Mousetrap has been delighting audiences in the West End for over 60 years. It would be fair to say, I think, that no other crime novelist comes close to matching her achievement. For me, as a psychological thriller writer, Agatha Christie is and will always be the gold standard – a lifelong inspiration whose every inventive tale demonstrates exactly how it should be done.  It was Christie who made me fall in love with mystery stories at the age of twelve and, rereading her work now at the age of 42, I still believe that she cranks up the excitement and the intellectual puzzlement like no other.”

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review of Witness For The Prosecution (Theatre Mill)

For the first time in 2014, 51 years after its London debut, Witness for the Prosecution got its first site specific performance. 

Theatre Mill
This stunning and thrilling performance of Agatha Christie's courtroom drama was set in the York Guildhall, and gives the audience the chance to be a part of the action. I was very privileged to watch this masterpiece be performed in its full splendor in the historic York Guildhall courtroom. There were some many good things about this adaptation. Firstly, the plot. Witness For The Prosecution began its life as a short story written by Agatha Christie in a collection of short stories called The Hound of Death. It had such an appeal that she decided to adapt it for the stage; its debut performance was in 1953 in London. It also made the basis for a successful 1950's movie starring Marlene Dietrich as Mrs Vole. The stage ending is different to the short story ending, as Agatha Christie, being of a moral disposition, wanted to make the murderer pay for their crimes. I have to say, watching it for the first time, I was tricked!

The courtroom setting was one of things that made this performance so good. From the moment you walked through the doors, you were greeted by a policeman asking "Are you here for the trial?". Once you entered the magnificent court, the clerk invited you in and asked you to stand as the judge entered. This made you really feels as if you were watching a real trial, something a stage just cannot do. At some points, you forgot that this was a fictional play, and not a real trial of a man.

The cast was superb. Everyone was excellent. Andrew Dowbiggin  gave a convincing performance as Leonard Vole, so much so that you forgot that he wasn't really a man on trial for his life. Rachel Logan was wonderful as Romaine Vole, one of the major characters, she was great in the role. David Bowen was great as Sir Wilfred, and had a lot of funny moments and good interactions with Mr Mayhew, brilliantly played by Adam Elms. Everyone in the cast gave a solid performance.

I have to say that Theatre Mill have done a spectacular job with this performance of Witness For The Prosecution , it is definitely the best Agatha Christie play I have ever seen. It was great to see it in in the York Guildhall, the courtroom setting made you feel as if you were in a courtroom, that along with the excellent lighting. I recommend you go and see it before it is over, as you wouldn't want to miss out on this stunning site specific performance.

Witness For The Prosecution is on at the York Guildhall Council Chambers from 2nd - 20th April. 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Review of Black Coffee (Agatha Christie Theatre Company)

York Press
Last Saturday, I had the great pleasure of seeing the Official Agatha Christie Theatre Company's latest performance in York at the Grand Opera House. This year, after the 'death' of David Suchet's unrivaled performance as Hercule Poirot, the company chose Black Coffee, the sole Poirot play. Robert Powell doesn't rival David Suchet, but he certainly gives him a run for his money.

The story is a typical Agatha Christie tale, there's a missing formula, a murder of a rich patriarch and a unique detective who makes a mockery of the poor old police. As the curtain rose, the wonderful Poirot theme tune from the TV series (composed by Chris Gunning) could be heard, with a slight alteration in tone. The first act was relatively short, but did get out of the way some key points. We are introduced to Sir Claud Amory (Ric Recate), a wealthy country squire armed with a chemical formula. He lives with his sister Caroline Amory (Liza Goddard), his son Richard (Ben Nealon), his niece Barbara (Felicity Houlbrooke) and Richard's Italian wife Lucia (Olivia Mace). There is also a secretary called Raynor (Mark Jackson) Italian doctor called Dr Carelli (Gary Mavers) staying at the house, so he's obviously a suspect!
Read more after the jump...

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Hercule Poirot: On stage and screen

Robert Powell is the latest actor to take on the role of Agatha Christie's genius creation Hercule Poirot. Here's a look at the actors who came before him.