Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Murder Is Announced, Oct 31, 2013 ***1/2

A Miss Marple Mystery, adapted by Leslie Darbon from Agatha Christie

Comedy Theatre, Oct 31 until Nov 17, 2013

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 31, 2013

Review also published in Herald Sun online on Nov 1, 2013 and in print on Sunday, Nov 3, 2013. KH 
Judi Farr as Miss Marple

IF YOU love an Agatha Christie murder mystery, this stage adaptation of A Murder Is Announced, her fourth Miss Marple novel, will be just your cup of tea - or cup of poison. 

This Australian production has all the crucial Christie elements: an isolated country house, a parade of quirky or pretty suspects, a couple of bloodless murders, oodles of red herrings, a brusque detective, and the inimitable Miss Marple: elderly village spinster and amateur sleuth.

In Darren Yap’s production, Judi Farr is a dainty, smart and unassuming Marple, capturing her watchful, cunning gaze, polite intrusiveness, and insightful analysis of everybody's murky secrets.

Miss Marple is fortuitously visiting the village of Chipping Cleghorn for her rheumatism treatment when a disturbing notice appears in the local rag: "A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm."

By another marvellous stroke of luck, sweet old Miss Marple is acquainted with Letitia Blacklock (Debra Lawrance), owner of Little Paddocks, so she pops in for a cuppa just around the time of the murder. Yes, there's a murder at 6.30pm.

Leslie Darbon's 1977 stage adaptation of Christie's 1950 novel is old-fashioned, English-drawing-room drama, with plenty of anodyne but witty dialogue, deliciously silly plot twists and daft characters.

This Miss Marple is not as fey and distracted as she is often portrayed; she does less knitting and does not indulge her habit of judging criminal behaviour by comparison with naughty characters in her own village of St Mary Mead.

Lawrance's Letitia is the epitome of stately gentlewoman, Deidre Rubenstein's Dora Bunner is enjoyably batty and mercurial, while Victoria Haralabidou is hilariously bouncy and bonkers as Mitzy, the Hungarian maid with a persecution complex.

Robert Grubb is likeable as the brusque, business-like Inspector Craddock, Carmen Duncan is suitably dim and decorative as Mrs Swettenham, and the remaining cast play appropriately pretty young things who are all suspects for various reasons.

A Murder Is Announced is light-hearted fun that will appeal to Christie fans and those who like a good yarn rather than an avant-garde, theatrical assault on the senses.

by Kate Herbert

Judi Farr as Miss Marple
James Beck
Cameron Duncan
Robert Grubb
Victoria Haralabidou
Jamie Kristian
Debra Lawrence
Nathaniel Middleton
Libby Munro
Elizabeth Nabben
Deidre Rubenstein

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