Thursday, January 21, 2016

Murder on the Nile - Review - People's Theatre

Murder on the Nile
The People's Theatre
19th Jan 2016

Agatha Christie is without the doubt the Queen of the Whodunnit. In Murder on the Nile she sets up the perfect scenario. She combines a confined space, no opportunity of escape, hot sultry weather, and an unlikely collection of people - supposedly random - with a surprising number of connections which Christie drip feeds to us as the play progresses. Social class, politics, religion, clash with jealousy, betrayal and money producing an explosive and fatal mixture for two fo the characters.
Right from the start we know that someone will end up dead by the hand of another on the ill-fated cruise down the Nile. But which character will die at whose hand? And will the audience and the rest of the cast manage to solve the mystery?

We have the rich spoilt socialite Kay (Sara Jo Harris) on honeymoon with her socially inferior husband Simon (Ian Willis), the cynical socialist Mr Smith, (Jake Wilson Craw) who seems to be a complete misfit amongst the rest of the monied and socially self-conscious passengers, Mrs Ffoliot-Ffoulkes (Karen Elliot), excruciatingly aware of her own worth, and her niece Christina (Rachel Scott) - the only genuinely nice person on the boat! Dr Bessner, (Steve Strouzer) a foreigner who we discover has a grudge against Kay's father, and Jacqueline (Alison Carr), the former best friend of Kay and jilted fiance of Simon. Are you following so far? Each one has a possible motive for murder.

As the play progresses and the tension and temperatures rise, it is left to Canon Pennefather to seek out the clues and uncover the truth. But he is not free of suspicion himself - how did he come to be on the boat on the Nile? Was it pure coincidence or is there more to his presence?

The cast act their parts convincingly - the audience is drawn in to the mystery, weighing up the characters and assessing which has the greater motive and opportunity for murder, guided by the good Canon and, of course, in the end all is revealed! Good performances from Alison Carr (who does play the emotional, overwrought female so well), and Jake Wilson Craw as the intriguing Mr Smith. David Downing holds the plot together nicely as the sympathetic and supportive clergyman with an investigator's mind!

The first act sets up the scenario so that the audience are au fait with all the characters and as such was a little drawn out, but the second act has much more action and humour as the plot unfolds and individuals' foibles are revealed and elaborated on.  There are a couple of strange anomalies - the steward (Steve Hewitt) is conspicuous by his absence in the second act and the boat's Captain appears from nowhere after the shootings as if his role is entirely there to justify Canon Pennefather as the lead investigator.
The set and costumes are sumptuous as to be expected, and the atmosphere and setting are enhanced with Egyptian music and sultry jazz throughout.

A fair production for Sean Burnside and Matthew Hope in their first foray into directing, Murder on the Nile plays until Saturday 23rd Jan.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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