THE MIRROR CRACK’D at the Royal and Derngate Theatre
“Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet”
Original Theatre has assembled a first-rate cast for this new adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff of Agatha Christie’s classic novel.
The action is set somewhere in the 1950s, a time when supermarkets and showers are new commodities, and the death penalty is still a deterrent. It’s not too much of a spoiler to report that a murder is committed for which there are a number of prime suspects. From out of town, and whose arrival is causing so much excitement in the sleepy village, are Hollywood legend Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward) with protective husband and film director Jason Rudd (Joe McFadden), co-star Lola Brewster (Chrystine Symone) and amongst their faithful entourage are waiter Guiseppe (Lorenzo Martelli) and secretary Elia (Sarah Lawrie). From within the village are the wealthy Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts), the down-to-earth Leighs (Jules Melvin & David Partridge) and Miss Marple’s home-help Cherry Baker (Mara Allen). A variety of personages with colourful accents – some of them over-played – verges close to pantomime on occasion. But as crucial scenes are re-enacted with different interpretations – bravo Jules Melvin – generally the performances are honest and rise above the caricature.
Special mention goes for Ward’s restrained performance as the softly spoken starlet, and Roberts’ bustling Dolly who appears to be the real village gossip.
Director Philip Franks moves this large cast of twelve naturally around the stage. Often in frieze positions whilst action is highlighted elsewhere, occasionally unwelcome shadows are cast from the otherwise effective side lighting (Emma Chapman). Frank’s insightful direction provides a line-up of suspects for us to learn who is who which aids the interval fun of making a guess as to whodunnit.
A central revolving structure (Designer Adrian Linford) provides the imposing backing for both Miss Marple’s living room and the film studio with large French windows and sliding glass doors showing a mirror reflection of the action. An almost constant background of effective incidental music going on behind much of the dialogue (Max Pappenheim) enhances the suspense but also evokes the comfortable feeling of watching something familiar on Sunday evening TV.
For much of the first act, Miss Marple (Susie Blake) sits on a central winged armchair, her bandaged sprained ankle raised, whilst snatches of action take place in front of her. The humorous repartee between her and Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot), as Miss Marple subtly takes over the questioning of suspects, is well done. Boot, despite a stereotypical moustache and much pacing, holds his own amid the laughter.
As Miss Marple takes to her feet with the aid of crutches, and then a walking stick, the plot moves closer to a denouement. We hear backstories about key players but an effort to provide some gravitas by writer Rachel Wagstaff by tying things together within a common theme of personal loss doesn’t really hit home.
This audience shows that the character of Miss Marple is well-loved and Susie Blake’s reliable and sympathetic portrayal of her steals the show. Who would have thought that this amiable old spinster’s first word on waking up from a dream at the start of the play would be “bugger”?
Reviewed on 31st October 2022
by Phillip Money
Photography by Ali Wright
Previously reviewed at this venue: