An Agatha Christie
novel of 1942 (which she dramatised in 1960) presents something of a
time-shift problem for the director. Joe Harmston has attempted to
find a solution by updating the framing action to 1968 – that year
of political and social upheavals – and the second-act flashback to
1948 – as wartime austerity began to soften into something
approaching peacetime normality.
It should swathe the
whole mystery with a sense of authenticity. It doesn't. The plot
itself is an intriguing one; the daughter of a convicted murderess
seeks to establish the truth behind her father's death by contacting
the five other people who were in the house when he died.
itself is an all-purpose one (Simon Scullion) initially behind a
gauze. Brigid Guy's costumes should appear to be normal clothes as
worn by the well-to-do of both decades, but somehow remain just
costumes. There's a soundscape by
Matthew Bugg] which comes into its own as we move from London to the
south coast, all loud whooshes as though a news photographer's
light-bulb was going off at some moment of crisis.
stylisation makes it more difficult for the actors to covey the sense
that they're playing real people with real lives and the traumas
which they bring. Sophia Ward is good
as the two Carlas, daughter and mother. Her half-sister Angela
provides Sammy Andrews with the opportunity to show us a young
woman who has naturally developed from a perky schoolgirl into a
young woman content with the life she has forged for herself.
governess Miss Williams is a type which anyone who went to a girls'
school in the 40s and 50s will recognise – the dedicated teacher
whose influence is never quit shaken off. Liza Goddard hits her off
precisely. Then there's petulant
society vamp Elsa (Lysette Anthony). I failed to believe in her at
either age of her man-devouring career.
The two brothers who cared
perhaps too deeply for Carla Crale are played by Robert Duncan as
Philip, the abrasive one, and Anthony Edridge as Meredith,
altogether a more suave character, even if he does distill some odd
potions in his laboratory. Gary Mavers as painter Amyas Carle
sketches in the portrait of a man whose art is always going to ride roughshod over
people to some effect. As lawyers go, Ben Nealon's Justin Fogg is