Agatha Christie, adapted by Leslie Darbon
Middle Ground Theatre Company
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
November 26-30, 2019; 2hr 30min
The doyenne of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie, was always the first to confess that entertainment is what she wrote. There’s certainly no shortage of it here.
Whether you set yourself the task of outsmarting Christie’s superannuated sleuth Miss Marple in solving the case, or just delight in watching a drawing room full of characters from another age go through their time-honoured motions, A Murder Is Announced will not disappoint.
The original novel may be nearly 70 years old, and Leslie Darbon’s stage adaptation around half that age, but the talent of its original lady owner ensures there’s still plenty of mileage left on the clock.
It’s the one in which a household of characters is thrown into sheer terror, or skittish delight, when a newspaper advert informs them there is to be a murder in their midst.
Their own Black Friday event duly occurs, and proves to be a bumper bargain of intricate clues, concocted characters and complete culs-de-sac.
Audiences first have to pick out their choice of likely victim (and frankly you might want to murder most of them on first sight), then swiftly redraw your suspicion, before finally surrendering all disbelief as an avalanche of evidence sweeps down a mountain of motivation.
As always, Christie’s characters come preloaded with individual back stories, and identities are not always what they first seem. But it all provides comfortable and comforting enjoyment, even if it slightly overstays its welcome at two and a half hours.
Middle Ground Theatre Company arranges the armchairs across stage in the style of a retirement home, which rather dictates that the action will proceed at a stately pace. The performances, by a 12-strong cast, are generally astute. The company’s programme again includes a helpful who’s who guide to the characters and their relationship to each other. Amateur detectives in the audience may treat it as DNA evidence!
Anyway, the murderer is... revealed daily, until Saturday.