“Whodunit?” was the question on everyone’s lips as the Agatha Christie classic “A Murder Is Announced” was brought to life at Darlington Hippodrome.
Set in post-war England, A Murder Is Announced takes audiences to Chipping Cleghorn, a quiet English village, where residents are astonished to read an advert in the local newspaper that a murder will take place this coming Friday at Little Paddocks, the home of Letitia Blacklock (Kazia Pelka).
Intrigued by the notice, the villagers gather at the house at the appointed time and, right on cue, the light goes out and a gun is fired. Enter Miss Marple (Sarah Thomas), who must unravel a complex series of relationships and events to solve the mystery of the killer.
Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, Middle Ground Theatre’s stage adaptation incorporates everything you would expect from an Agatha Christie murder mystery: a narrative brimming with clues, shocking revelations and red herrings to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Sarah Thomas, best known for starring as Glenda Wilkinson in “Last of the Summer Wine”, brings a wealth of experience to the role of Miss Marple with equal measures of mischief and intrigue, whilst Kazia Pelka (“Heartbeat”, “Family Affairs” and “Brookside”) makes her stage presence felt as the fearless Letitia Blacklock.
They star alongside alongside a talented ensemble of well-defined characters, including Tom Butcher (as Inspector Craddock) Jenny Funnell (Dora Bunner), Lucy Evans (Julia Simmons) and Tom Gibbons (Edmun Swettenham), who all deliver solid performances throughout.
For the most part, the action unfolds at a steady pace with frequent laugh-out-loud moments (predominantly from Lydia Piechowiak as the extremely likeable Mitzi). However, the production suffers from a number of issues, namely a lack of tension, resulting in a somewhat underwhelming murder scene, and some lengthy lines of dialogue that have little relevance to revealing the identity of the culprit.
Nevertheless, the well-designed early Victorian house setting goes hand-in-hand with the intermittent music played between scene changes and the characters’ authentic costumes to capture the essence of the 1950s era. In addition, the clever use of lighting (from Jeremy Barnaby) further adds to the sense of mystery that hangs over the audience until the final reveal.
Middle Ground Theatre’s adaptation of “A Murder Is Announced” succeeds in keeping the audience guessing until the big reveal, although it’s not without its problems. Needless to say, if you love a murder mystery, all the clues lead to this.
“A Murder Is Announced is at Darlington Hippodrome from Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 to Saturday, September 14th, 2019.
Tickets can be purchased from the box office on 01325 405405 or through the website.