Towards Zero | the Genesian Theatre

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Image by Craig O’Regan

It’s a typical September day of tennis and swimming at Gulls Point where Lady Tresilian has gathered her family and friends for their seaside holiday tradition. Only this year, Nevile’s complicated romantic connections have added an uncomfortable tension that may or may not have not contributed to a murderous outburst. In this Agatha Christie classic, past passions boil over in a mix of deception and misdirection.

A lot has happened since Thomas (Thomas Southwell) last visited Gulls Point seven years ago including the death of his brother, marriage of his childhood crush Audrey (Molly Haddon) to his rival Nevile (Nelson Scott), as well as their subsequent divorce and Nevile’s remarriage to Kay (Alannah Robertson). With these overlapping love triangles disturbing everyone’s relaxing holiday, the whole group is shaken by the murder of Lady Tresilian (Ros Bilbe) and drugging of her assistant Mary (Amber Wilcox). Everyone is a suspect in this Christie mystery plot with love and money motivating them all.

Director Pamela Whalan stays true to the tropes of the cozy mystery with a seaside twist by emphasising the close quarters of the uncomfortable parties with lots of eavesdropping, accidental sightings, and many awkward arguments in the large living room. Set design from Tom Fahy along with technical design from Ian Whalan captured the airy lightness of a summer holiday with the more sinister aspects hidden under the cover of darkness. The large picture windows overlooking the sea were like Chekov’s gun, lurking suspiciously in the background. Susan Carveth’s costume design brought to life the 1950s for contemporary audiences with an attractive use of cuts and styles from the period. The design team provide a consistent and comprehensive representation of this mid-century story while balancing the unsettling atmosphere.

Prior to the murder, there is plenty of time to examine the unstable dynamics between the characters as they unpack years of history. Robertson is fierce and demanding in her portrayal of the new wife while Haddon offers a cool, reserved presence in contrast. Both actors warm well to their roles and present the most interesting arcs of the set characters. Paul Barbary who plays Matthew Treves, Lady Trisilian’s old friend, is exceedingly dramatic as he attempts to unravel the mystery and all the masked motivations before Superintendent Battle (James Sugrue) can get there first. Barbary and Sugrue form an unexpected but amicable duo that gently reach the conclusion of the production.

The solution for this crime comes cleverly concealed in another detective novel being read by Thomas which leads him to remark to Mr Treves that the murder should really come at the end of the story, after all of the years of preconditioning events have already taken place. From here Mr Treves can work backwards through the convoluted love lives of all present guests and see to the heart of this particular crime, picking the murderer out from a web of misdirections.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a story from the great Christie herself if there wasn’t an unforeseen ending: an escape, a resurgence of murderous rage, and a final loving embrace to round out a night of detective delights.

Towards Zero is running at the Genesian Theatre from August 31st – October 12th

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