Newcastle Theatre Company, Lambton. Ends March 17
LESLIE Darbon, who adapted Agatha Christis’s novel A Murder is Announced for the stage a year after her death in 1976, largely followed her theatrical mode: reducing the characters to an engaging and manageable number, and including a lot of dark humour in their words and mannerisms.
That largely comes across in this production, with the people’s very different reactions to a small country town newspaper advertisement announcing that a murder will take place at a rural mansion at 6.30pm on Friday the 13th having audience members laughing loudly. And when a person is murdered there, watchers are on the edge of their seats.
Director Arlene Richards, the actors and staging crew do a generally good job in defining the characters, though some performers on opening night took a while to bring out their natures. But later scenes, in which several were shown not to be who they claimed to be, had more grab.
Darbon didn’t make the first half as tight as it should and rushed the second act’s events, so the actors’ ability to give life to the people was applaudable. Tracey Gordon brought out the frustrations of the mansion owner, Miss Blacklock, Jo Cooper raised sympathy for her fluttery friend, Bunny, Claire Williams gave light amusement to discerning crime solver, Miss Marple, Stewart McGowan’s policeman Inspector Craddock quickly recognised her abilities, and Megan Connelly, Luke Aspinall, Marigold Pazer, Debra Hely, Matthew Gallimore, Chloe Peters, and Ronan Barrett were colourful friends and neighbours.
With the season largely sold out, there will be an extra show on Saturday, March 17, at 2pm.