In my teenage years television had moved on to a diet of sitcoms and pop stars, and the image of the permed hairdo of actor-turned-singer-turned-actor Paul Nicholas performing “Grandma’s Party” on Top of the Pops is burned in to my memory. So, the idea of seeing Nicholas take the lead in this production did not fill me with confidence (and having an 80’s ‘Blue Peter’ presenter – Mark Curry – thrown in for good measure didn’t help!) but I need not have been concerned. The coiffured, slightly spivvy 70’s ‘pop star’ has matured in to an excellent character actor and the rest of the cast of familiar faces were equally good.
Now, this is a murder mystery of the finest calibre and it would be inappropriate of me to give away the plot, assuming you have never read the book or seen one of the many films and TV versions; even if you have seen a production before, the Director of this one (Joe Harmston) has altered the end of the original stage play (written by Christie herself) to better match the end of the book, so you may yet be surprised by ‘whodunit’.
Set in 1939, the slightly disparate collection of characters is lured to a lavish house on isolated Soldier Island under a variety of pretexts. As you would expect with an Agatha Christie story, they all appear to have histories they’d prefer to hide and it is not long before their facades begin to crumble. One by one they reveal the truth and the murderer starts to pick them off.
By the end, it is clear that the clues were there all along – if you are observant and have a logical mind – but suspense and confusion are the order of the day as the story unfolds. I was certain early on that I knew who the culprit was, but by halfway through I had changed my mind. And at the end I found I was wrong!
As I said, this is a marvellous cast, led by Nicholas, all of whom gave excellent performances; the standouts for me were Paul as Sir Lawrence Walgrave, Eric Carte as General Mackenzie and Kezia Burrows as Vera Claythorne. The story is well told, with hints of humour here and there, along with the inevitable drama.
All in all, this is a most enjoyable production of a classic Agatha Christie story which kept the mystery and suspense going until the very last.