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The Hollow

The Hollow
Playwright: Agatha Christie
Director: Molly Haddon
Genesian Theatre
August 19 to September 23, 2023

The Genesian always offers a very pleasant and entertaining evening at the theatre. The opening night of Agatha Christie’s The Hollow was no exception starting with a discreet glass of champagne and ending with genuinely appreciative applause without yahooing. Under Molly Hadden’s direction, Agatha Christie’s “country house murder”, beautifully indulges our nostalgia for a partly imaginary past while allowing its major characters complex motivation.

The play takes place in the one setting, the Garden Room of The Hollow, Sir Henry Angkatell’s house. Designed by Haddon the room, painted a fresh sky blue, creates a sense of being close to the outdoors supported by glass doors looking onto a vine-clad wall. The room, pleasant as it is, is dominated by a painting of Ainswick which hangs above the fireplace, the former grand home of the charmingly muddled Lady Lucy Angkatell (Penny Day). Several of the guests who assemble for the weekend have different and deeply emotional connections to Ainswick.

Lady Lucy regrets the loss of Ainswick to Edward Angkatell (Thomas Southwell) as the estate was entailed to the male line while the unconfident and lovelorn Edward feels inadequate to the task. An obviously troubled Henrietta Angkatell (Jess Davis), an up-and-coming sculptor, prefers not to remember her childhood memories of Ainswick when she was happy, while Midge (Cariad Weitnauer) – determined to earn her own living as a shop assistant – dreams of happy times spent at Ainswick to help her survive. Sir Henry (Vincent O’Neil) is mostly and ineptly concerned that everyone gets on together.

Into the mix come the invited guests from outside the Angkatell family; the successful but egotistical Dr. John Cristow (Chad Traupmann) and his devoted wife Gerda (Emily Smith) and an invader, glamorous Veronica Craye (Alannah Robertson). Craye intends to revive her previous romantic relationship with Cristow and, at first, it seems he might be tempted. A difficult situation, as Cristow is having an affair with Henrietta, who while she has no illusions about him, is unable to resist him sexually. Nevertheless, as a strong and truthful woman she is unhappy with herself.

When Cristow is murdered, Inspector Colquhoun (also, Traupman with an admirable Scottish accent) and Sergeant Penny (Natalie Reid) have a formidable task. A likeable garrulous maid, Doris (also Robertson) and the loyal close-mouthed housekeeper, Mrs Gudgeon (Emily Saint Smith) provide a worthy diversion as does an egg-basket, and there is no lack of suspects. When the truth is out, it is more a pitiable revelation than a big reveal but there yet remains a little and ironic surprise.

The actors are uniformly good. Jess Davis is excellent as an intelligent woman trapped by a passion she may despise. Chad Traupmann makes an unlikeable but possibly redeemable Cristow and a likeable and canny Inspector. Emily Smith gives Gerda the right degree of helpless dependency. Penny Day is convincing and charming as a woman uses vagueness as a shield and Weitnauer is very appealing as a young woman who finds happiness at last.

Christie remains enjoyable and is most enjoyable when it is presented as an escape into another time – and how good costumes (Susan Carveth) can convey era – and when it is faithful to the original text. An exception would the addition of lively and apposite songs to the present performance.

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