Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Let’s Kill Agatha Christie

Let’s Kill Agatha Christie
Writer: Anthony Hinds
Director: Gregory George
Genesian Theatre
May 4 – June 8, 2024

Acknowledged as the “Queen of Cosy Crime”, Agatha Christie’s detective stories often featuring Miss Marple or Hercules Poirot, have been translated into many languages and adapted into many film, television and stage productions. Anthony Hinds’s Let’s Kill Agatha Christie while making fun of the genre popularised by Christie, is also a ridiculously funny play staged with energy and style by the Genesian.

As usual, the thoughtful Genesian provides its age-diverse audience with a printed program. In this instance, the notes prime the audience to get the most enjoyment out of the recurring tropes that define the cosy “whodunnit” and which Hinds gleefully subverts.

While maintaining the readily identifiable setting – a remote location – and the consequently enclosed group of seemingly respectable characters who are invited to spend a weekend – Hinds proceeds to introduce almost all the listed tropes in an upside-down comedy of bad manners.

Naturally, there must be a body – and early in the story – often of someone who turns out to be eminently killable. A stylishly costumed Prudence Sykes played with melodramatic panache by Caitlin Clancy, is a writer of murder mysteries. As the notes inform us, her novels “captivate readers with plots as subtle as a blunderbuss and morally ambiguous characters drawn straight from the pages of other people’s novels”. We note she depends upon her on-the-ball secretary Angela performed with bustling pleasantness by Denise Kitching to know what is going on in her own novels.

Sykes has invited three former and long-ago flatmates to her home for the weekend, each jealous of each other’s career success. We feel we are set for the usual find-the-murderer.

The house guests each have a somewhat dodgy claim to fame. The overbearing industrialist, Sir Frederick Belting, played with zest by Theo Hatzistergos, the lady poet, Marjorie Field, penning sentimental doggerel for the press but with an acidic edge nicely captured by Natalie Reid, and the final guest, the actor, John Hartley-Miles, performed with a suspect boyishness by Bryan Smith, are all uneasy. Do they have secrets they don’t want made public? Of course they do, as each one persistently trips on a broken stair rod. So, is it Marjorie Field in the Blue Bedroom with poisoned Ovaltine?

There are interesting complications. A young policeman, P.C. Crockett (an appropriately ingenuous Harry Lewis), arrives at an inconvenient moment to collect “jumble” – a curiously British word for items donated to charity. There is, in addition, a pedantic Inspector Murray, an affable Brendan Layton, who has a surprise or two of his own. There is more, as the domestic staff offer fertile ground for further melodramatic insanity. The butler, Tombs, played with lugubrious irony by Peter J. Donnelly provides a diverting contrast to the garrulous ill-used maid-of-all-work. Andrea Blight as the maid, Gladys, supplies the play with its funniest moments as she blunders up the stairs with suitcases, makes impossibly angled curtseys or indulges in ridiculous histrionics.

Sensibly, Gregory George has turned up the melodrama, emphasised the stereotypical and heightened the energy, providing a thoroughly enjoyable and completely escapist night at the theatre. A concluding question from the slightly threatening Tombs invites us to consider how much we like fictional mysteries.

Peter J. Donnelly (back), Andrea Blight and Bryan Smith.
Photo: Supplied

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