Tag Archives: Max Pappenheim

The Mirror Crack'd

The Mirror Crack’d


Royal and Derngate Theatre

THE MIRROR CRACK’D at the Royal and Derngate Theatre



The Mirror Crack'd

“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



For the full details of the UK Tour click here


Previously reviewed at this venue:


Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | May 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | July 2021
Gin Craze | ★★★★ | July 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | November 2021
Blue / Orange | ★★★★ | November 2021
The Wellspring | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | March 2022
The Wellspring | ★★★ | March 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | September 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | October 2022
The Two Popes | ★★★★ | October 2022


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Apollo Theatre

CRUISE  at the Apollo Theatre





“John Patrick Elliott’s live score throbs beneath the anecdotes in perfect harmony”


Say what you want about the pandemic (and a lot has been said), but in retrospect it is vaguely possible now to glimpse some positive repercussions. And time always has a habit of painting thick coats of nostalgia over past events, so that many of us now recall fondly those empty days of 2020, freed from the guilt that naturally accompanies inactivity, but free to explore undiscovered creativity. One individual who grasped that opportunity by the horns is Jack Holden. A ripple of an idea evolved into a stream (quite literally a live stream – and one which reshaped the burgeoning artform) which in turn evolved into the first new play to open in the West End after lockdown. Its second run comes with rumours of a feature film in development.

Two little gripes to get out the way before continuing. I reviewed the show last year at the Duchess Theatre, and little – if anything – has changed; so it would be easy just to copy and paste. But if the content remains the same, the perception has altered slightly. With the added passage of time, the second-hand nature of Holden’s writing is that much more apparent. His ingenious wordplay and gifted command of the stage remains undisputed, but these are other people’s stories. It went unnoticed before, but now there is a vague sense that the integrity, of one born too late, might be questioned.

The performance does its utmost to silence any reservations, however. The Eighties weren’t Holden’s world, but they are vividly recreated in a whirlwind ninety minutes of sight, sound, song; poetry and prose. The atmosphere and soundscape are spot on, as is Holden’s vocabulary that speaks of a Soho sadly long submerged under the waves of so-called gentrification. Holden is Jack (himself), working a decade ago at ‘Switchboard’; the LGBT+ telephone helpline. Left alone on a Saturday morning in the office he receives a call from Michael. The show becomes Michael’s story – a ‘gay veteran’ who survived, but not without the battle scars and the memories of loved ones lost on the way. We meet his saviour, the barmaid Catherine (Tabby Cat), Lady Lennox who charges just two chats a day for a year’s rent in a Soho townhouse; Fat Sandy, DJ Fingers the Mancunian nutcase, Jacob and Jason – the Nymphs of Greek Street, Polari Gordon and Slutty Dave. The fleshpots and drinking dens (most of which have been killed off, while HIV targeted many of its inhabitants) are brought to sparkling life with a sense of nostalgia that is sometimes overwhelming in Holden’s masterful retelling.

It is a portrayal that is faultless and fearless. Visually unchanging, Holden slips into each character with a finely tuned precision and incredible command of expression and accents. John Patrick Elliott’s live score throbs beneath the anecdotes in perfect harmony. Just as Holden creates the illusion of a crowded stage, Elliott is a one-man orchestra; eclectic, electric, and essential. Prema Mehta’s lighting is, indeed, another member of the cast: an equally evocative voice that helps tell the story.

It is the story of a man given a death sentence who decides to ‘go out with a bang’. Who won’t just ‘face the music’ but will play it. It is the story of a survivor. One who survived first the stigma, then the disease. “We carry on” he says. “What else can we do”. Okay, Holden may be too young for his words to carry the full weight with which they are burdened, but they certainly resonate at a time when we’re recovering from another epidemic.

“Cruise” hits hard. And plays hard too. Hedonistic joy dances with tragedy. Innocence and experience pass in the night. Holden encapsulates a lost generation without mourning it. He acknowledges his nostalgic yearning, and is ultimately grateful that he was ‘born too late’. And he does so with real respect. “Cruise” is an absolute joy. A celebration. A party not to be missed.


Reviewed on 17th August 2022

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith



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