The queen of crime fiction Agatha Christie isn’t above the occasional trope or red herring. Besides, if all the clues were available to the audience, Poirot and Miss Marple wouldn’t seem as genius as they do. Murdered to Death takes all the quirks and foibles of a Christie classic and amps them up for a deadly satire.
When Mildred Bagshot (Denise Kitching) invited her old friends to her country estate for a weekend getaway, she couldn’t have known that it would end in murder. But when Miss Maple (Sandra Bass), who trails murders behind her for miles, arrived unexpectedly, the whole weekend turns bloody. If the policeman Inspector Pratt (William Baltyn) was half as competent as his Constable Thompkins (Ben Brighton), then the killing spree might have ended at one. But, as such, it takes the murderer herself to fully untangle the mess of forgery, affairs, and hidden identities wrapped up in Mildred’s will.
Peter Gordon’s satirical take on a cosy British murder mystery was rife with references to classic crime tropes like the crooked butler (Stephen Holland) as well as beloved characters from Agatha Christie’s oeuvre. The dialogue was witty with innuendo and homonymic wordplay to amplify the cluelessness of Inspector Pratt which was highly amusing. Director Liz Munro demonstrated a clear vision of balancing the straight with the silly for a dry, tongue-in-cheek production aimed at crime fiction lovers that didn’t exclude others from its humour. The characterisations were earnest and genuine which contributed considerably to the enjoyment.
In particular, Baltyn’s Pratt with his smooth delivery of illogic and foolishness against Bass’s Miss Maple with her empty air of wisdom was a very funny dynamic to behold. Crowd favourite performances included the simple charm of Brighton’s Thompkins and the gruff pomposity of Colonel Charles Craddock played by David Stewart-Hunter with an upright air. Overall, the ensemble was balanced with good comedic timing and a grounded quality to each of their eccentricities which made them uniquely likeable.
The set design by Debbie Smith was customarily Genesian in its attention to period detail, capturing the atmosphere of the 1920s social scene while maintaining the comforts of a country house. The costuming of Susan Carveth and Ildy Izso continued this on to the characters who were easily recognisable for their drop-waist dresses and perfectly pinned hair. Michael Schell’s lighting design injected some more satirical humour into the staging with key uses of spotlights and dramatic dimming to signal confessions.
If the usual crime drama is a bit too tense for you or you’ve worked your way through all of Christie’s publications during lockdown, then this romp of a weekend will be just the ticket.
Murdered to Death is running at the Genesian Theatre from January 22nd – March 5th
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