Surprise! surprise! Actors and playwrights don't always like critics. That's driven home in the late Tudor Gates' thriller Who Killed “Agatha” Christie?, of which a new production by Andrew Lynford has just begun its tour. If you've never seen it, it's a two-hander with offstage voices and has more plot twists than a corkscrew has spirals. It's set in a gloomy London mansion flat on a dark day threatening thunderstorms.
The two main parts are very well cast. Mark Noble plays John Terry (now, there's a surname for a man of the theatre), buzzing around the stage like a particularly malicious hornet as he manipulates his hapless visitor. Neil Roberts is Arthur Christie, a harmless bespectacled academic type, you might think, but a man whose work might yet be the death of him. Not to mention the fact that he's been diagnosed with heart problems.
Any full-length play with only two characters, both of whom are onstage throughout, relies on vocal colour as well as pace in its performers. Considering these two actors took over in their roles at quite short notice, their achievement is all the more commendable. They play unpleasant men who end up less as flesh-and-blood people about whom we, the audience, care deeply as the author's puppets. But that's not their fault. This is a piece about the power of words; sometimes there can be too many of them.