Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced was always going to draw fans to see it on stage. I took my mother, a keen fan of Christie, hopeful that even if I didn’t enjoy it, at least she would.
“I don’t know how they managed to ruin Miss Marple, but they did it!” This was her conclusion, and I had to agree, though I’m not so sure they ‘ruined’ it so much as added nothing to the story through the staging and performance. The script itself is very wordy and not nearly as witty as Christie’s prose, and the actors didn’t seem to enjoy wrapping their mouths around the accents and excess words.
Visually, it’s a beautiful set with appropriate costumes, however this was detracted from by the hair and make-up, which was overdone in several cases – especially in Miss Marple herself, with her pallid base colour and rosy red cheeks. You notice small things like that when you’re bored.
Judi Farr as Miss Marple definitely looks and behaves the part, but she lacked the subtly that makes the ‘real’ Miss Marple so delightful, like her innocent suggestions, and her cryptic statements that are so clear on the surface but hold further meanings. There were no extra dimensions in Judi Farr’s Miss Marple, however this can be attributed to the script as much to her performance. A gentler touch on both would have greatly benefited the show.
The acting otherwise was overdone enough to be irritating. I expected an element of excess, but characters like Mitzi, played by Victoria Haralabidou, and Julia Simmons, performed by Elizabeth Nabben, became shrill and tiresome. Again, subtly would have helped – the languidness of Julia would have had more impact if less forced, and while Mitzi was at times amusing, she was also exhausting.
None of the performances really stood out, except perhaps Debra Lawrance who was consistently convincing and elegant.
While lovers of Agatha Christie and her wonderful Miss Marple will naturally be drawn to this production, the ticket prices are quite ridiculous, given its small cast and relatively simple setting demands. Tickets over $100 for an uninspiring performance will have many patrons feeling ill-used. Sadly, I cannot recommend this performance to fans of the original; spend your money on an elegant morning tea with scones then go home with a BBC box set.