I have to start this review by admitting I’m not a big fan of Agatha Christie’s work. I’ve never read any of her novels as I’ve always felt Miss Marple was twee in tweeds and Hercule Poirot’s moustache-twiddling never tweaked my interest and although I’m a regular theatregoer, I’ve never had the slightest inclination to see the world’s longest running play The Mousetrap. However, one of Christie’s best-known novels The Mirror Cracked From Side To Side with a brand-new adaptation from Rachel Wagstaff is touring the UK this year as The Mirror Crack’d and this week arrived in leafy Bromley so I took the plunge and headed off the splendid Churchill Theatre to see if my mind could be changed.
The Mirror Crack’d tells the tale of a murder (well all Agatha Christie thrillers all start with a murder don’t they?). Heather Leigh (played by Jules Melvin) dies while at a party given by Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward) an American actress who has moved into the area with her husband, film director Jason Rudd (Joe McFadden) buying the local manor house Gossington Hall from Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts) who is best friends with her neighbour Miss Marple (Susie Blake). The murder is being investigated by an old friend of Miss Marple, Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot) who tries to stop Miss Marple being involved but fails miserably! Along the way, there’s another murder, that of Giuseppe Renzo (Lorenzo Martelli), the actress’s butler and there’s a near-fatal accident when a spotlight crashes to the ground on a film set. With all this going on, the stage is set for the intrepid Miss Marple to solve the crime and unveil the murderer which (minor spoiler alert), she of course does, giving the frazzled Chief Inspector apoplexy.
If this sounds like the plot of a typical Agatha Christies mystery, then it is. The problem with this production is that it’s all a bit static. Miss Marple has had a bad fall recently and sprained her ankle badly. This means she spends most of her time seated listening to the other characters explain what’s happened off-stage and when she does walk it’s very slowly with a cane. There’s also a lot of exposition and explaining events that have happened in the past as Miss Marple finds out about the murders. There’s a lot of walking aimlessly on and off by characters presumably to give a bit of life to the production but it’s all a bit stately and confined and just makes everything a little clunky. There are also a lot of flashbacks which slow down the action in the second act.
Then as we head towards the climax there’s very little tension as a lot of the time it’s played for laughs although there are one or two funny one-liners. There’s also the subtext of loss which at times deflects from the convoluted plot. Everyone has lost someone and the characters spend quite a lot of time talking about their own particular losses which also ratchets down any tension there may have been. We even learn about Miss Marple’s tragic loss of a suitor in the first world war which explains why over forty years later, she’s still a Miss.
On the plus side, Adrian Linford’s set is superb. It has to be various locations and interiors and the changes are fluid and seamless. There’s also some excellent and exciting cinematic music setting the scene and adding to the atmosphere. And it goes without saying that the acting is of course first rate.
So, whilst this production hasn’t made me an Agatha Christie fan, the audience in Bromley loved it. Christie has sold millions of books, had numerous movies, TV series, and plays produced from her writings and is beloved around the world by millions of people. So, if you’re one of those, then The Mirror Crack’d is probably for you, so do go and see it as it tours between now and early next year.
I may have been a little disappointed but you won’t be I’m sure.
Review by Alan Fitter
Original Theatre are delighted to announce the full cast of their brand new production of Rachel Wagstaff’s acclaimed adaptation of Agatha Christie’s THE MIRROR CRACK’D. The production, directed by Philip Franks, is coming to the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from Tue 22- Sat 26 November 2022.
The final members of the cast to be announced are Oliver Boot as Chief Inspector Craddock, Lorenzo Martelli as Guiseppe Renzo, Chrystine Symone as Lola Brewster and Holly Smith in the ensemble.
They join the previously announced Susie Blake as Miss Marple, Sophie Ward as Marina Gregg, Joe McFadden as Jason Rudd, Veronica Roberts as Dolly Bantry, Mara Allen as Cherry Baker, Sarah Lawrie as Ella Zielinsky, Jules Melvin as Heather Leigh and David Partridge as Cyril Leigh.
The Mirror Crack’d
Tue 22 – Sat 26 November 2022
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
The Mirror Crack’d
The Alexandra, Birmingham
Tue 14 Feb – Sat 18 Feb 2023