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REVIEW: The Mirror Crack’d at the Everyman Theatre

REVIEW: The Mirror Crack’d at the Everyman Theatre

The Mirror Crack’d
Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Rating: ★★★

To paraphrase the programme notes, theatrical adaptations of Agatha Christie novels were once a despised genre: creaky sets; even creakier acting; the staple fare of thinly-stretched repertory companies wanting to maximise bums on seats and minimise outlay.  Indeed, your reviewer used to be a devout Agathaphobe, regarding her stories as trivial puzzles involving bloodless characters – apart from the corpses, of course –  with no more complexity than Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlett or Professor Plum.

Well, not any more.  Rachel Wagstaff’s skilful adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 novel has wiped the sneer off my face.  In this play, Christie’s characters are living, breathing – apart from the corpses, of course – and recognisably human.  Every character, even the most peripheral, has a recognisable inner life, and everyone is given his or her moment in the spotlight – not just as the object of fleeting suspicion, but as a fully-fleshed individual.

Susie Blake has laced-up Margaret Rutherford’s and Joan Hickson’s big boots, and has stepped confidently out of their shadows as the gimlet-eyed Miss Marple.  Ms Blake portrays the geriatric detective as a compassionate, wounded empath.  Miss Marple’s acute observations evidently derive from her keen interest in others, and we intuit that her outward focus comes from an urge not to dwell on her own inner heartbreak.   The sherry-fuelled scenes between Miss Marple and her snobbish friend Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts) are warm, funny and charming; and the comical rapport between meddling spinster and frustrated investigator, Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot), is a constant delight.  The ever-glamorous Sophie Ward is highly credible as Hollywood star Marina Gregg, while household favourite and Strictly winner Joe McFadden plays against type as her possessive husband.  Special mention also to Jules Melvin as the super-annoying first victim.  I’d have merrily killed her myself.

Writer Rachel Wagstaff makes effective use of flashback to create a dynamic interplay between past and present.  This mirrors the way in which our imaginations play and re-play past events, viewing them from different angles as we hold them up to the light of scrutiny.  Director Philip Franks’s sensitive, taut direction gives the cast ample opportunity to explore their characters’ private moments while still keeping up the pace, and brings the curtain down at a bladder-friendly two hours and twenty minutes.  Designer Adrian Linford has created a gorgeous array of costumes and a highly flexible set – although I felt sorry for the actors and acting ASMs who had to double as scene-shifters.

This production has breathed fresh life into the murder mystery.  Apart from the corpses, of course.

The Mirror Crack’d runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 1 October 2022.

© 2022 Paul Sharples

Explore Gloucestershire
28 September 2022

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