Reviewed at The Theatre Royal , Newcastle 15th June.
Bill Kenwright, presents the Agatha Christie Theatre Company tour of Spiders Web, which is head and shoulders above their tour last year of The Unexpected Guest. The play, written in 1954, was the first stage performance of an original theatre script written by Christie and Director Joe Harmston ensures there is plenty of humour injected in to the production to keep things moving nicely along.
The plot revolves around Clarissa Haisham-Brown (Melanie Gutteridge) who loves imagining what she would do in certain situations. However, following a very unpleasant meeting over the future of her step daughter, she is suddenly faced with having to conceal the dead body she has found on her drawing room floor. So with her husband due home at any moment to conduct a very important meeting she enlists three friends to assist her in hiding the body.
All goes according to plan until Inspector Lord (Denis Lill) arrives and the apparent truth starts to emerge.
Harmstons’ direction lifts this play from a run of the mill dated pot boiler to an enjoyable, fast moving who dunnit, which only slows down towards the end, when the killer has to be revealed. Even then, his direction in the dying seconds of the play brings further laughs.
While each of the cast is more than capable of playing their role, Catherine Shipton, is the surprise of the night. Known to the audience as Duffy in Casualty, she was excellent as the feisty gardener Mildred Peake. The set by Simon Scullion, captures the feel of a large 1952 house and is a delight to look at, while Sound Designer, Ian Horrocks-Taylor adds great sound effects to the proceedings.
It is hard to imagine Dame Agatha’s work being better presented to a modern audience than in this production. However, while the cast does contain some faces people will recognise from television, it deserves to have a star name to two added to draw a larger audience.
Spiders Web has set the benchmark on how to update and present an Agatha Christie play to a modern day audience, I only hope future productions of her work can maintain this standard.