Classic murder mystery

AAAH, Agatha. Brian Clemens taut thriller Strictly Murder, performed by a touring professional cast at the Kenneth More Theatre last week, made more than a couple of nods in the direction of the queen of murder mystery. Bruce James Productions has put to

AAAH, Agatha. Brian Clemens' taut thriller Strictly Murder, performed by a touring professional cast at the Kenneth More Theatre last week, made more than a couple of nods in the direction of the queen of murder mystery.

Bruce James Productions has put together a very taut, efficient production. Tense and dramatic, like any Christie mystery, it is firmly rooted in its time, which in this case, is days before the outbreak of World War Two.

In another tribute to Dame Agatha, this piece is awash with red herrings.

Directed by the eponymous Bruce James, this was a stylish and polished production, featuring a strong cast and a convincing set by Geoff Gilder.


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Like many a Christie story it features a murder in the early stages. British artist Peter Meredith is living the rural idyll in France when he is confronted about his past by Detective Ross. Desperate to avoid detection, he poisons the policeman - throttling him to death when the poison fails to kill - then buries him in a cesspit.

When Peter's partner Suzy Hinchcliffe returns home, she is disconcerted to find a rug missing and a bottle of rat poison on the dresser, as well as a stranger's hat on the stand by the door.

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We are introduced to the idea that Peter may be a murderer. And when Ross's identical twin turns up, while Peter is away, looking for his brother, the pregnant Suzy is convinced that she is living with a cold-blooded murderer.

But, as in many a Christie plot, all is not as it seems.

There are plenty of riveting twists and turns that make for a compelling thriller.

Katie Funk vibrated with fear and uncertainty as Suzie. Her performance reminded me of a trembling leaf trying to avoid falling in the autumn, so transparent and na�ve did she appear. But when Suzy was required to be strong, she was. And Funk made her believable. Her clipped accent, so reminiscent of the time, was particularly impressive.

Nick Barclay was suitably bombastic and overbearing as Peter. This part is a lot less nuanced, but that is the writing rather than the portrayal. And Barclay carefully walked a tightrope that made Peter strong and resolute, although haunted by fears.

David Rumelle impressed as the apparently simple Josef and Miriam Miller was terrific as investigator Jasmine Darke.

Mark Moraghan, a veteran of TV's Heartbeat, London's Burning, The Bill, Holby City, Casualty and Peak Practice, was impressive as Ross, giving a finely tuned performance that showed that he knows how to make a part his own. I particularly applaud his German accent, although I can't tell you why he adopted this without giving everything away.

- SUE LEEMAN

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