Did you know that there
was something called "Agatha Christie Time"? I didn't
until I read my programme before the curtain rose on Ian Dickens
and David North's new production of A Murder Is
Announced in the Leslie Darbon stage version. The
audience, incidentally, is seduced into the country village world of
the 1950s by a judicious selection of BBC Home Service and Light
The actual performances
are mixed. Both Katy Manning as Miss Blacklock and Claire Fisher
as Dora are extremely good, making their characters fully credible.
John D Collins as Inspector Craddock] and Mark Martin as
kicking-away-from-the-maternal-apron-strings Edmund are also good
portraits. All are audible throughout, which (alas) is more than can
be said for Geraldine Newman's Miss Marple – she looks right and
has the mannerisms to a tee – or Dean Gaffney's Patrick.
Manning changes from
the caring woman of the first scenes to a more visibly-hardened
person with considerable subtlety. Fisher gives the slightly retarded
Dora that voice which switches from normal to a near-shout which one
associates with those who have been hard of hearing all their lives.
And Collins produces the right air of exasperation when needed while
giving the comic moments their full weight. You can't really produce
much liking for Edmund, but Martin wisely doesn't try to make us.
Gemma Bissix as Julia
and Poppy Meadows as Phillipa don't really contrast sufficently.
They may be two of a type, but they're not peas in the proverbial
pod. The Blacklock household has a resident maid (this being "Agatha
Christie Time"); Mitzi is a refugee with a shaky past and an
inflammable temper. Julia Main makes her funny but also works hard to
turn a caricature into someone who might well have gone through the
personal and political traumas which she alleges.