Written by Agatha Christie and Directed by Lorraine Slipper
When Lucy Angkatell arranges a weekend house party for some of her
cousins and family friends, she probably didn’t plan for murder to be on
the menu. But when you have a charismatic doctor, his wife and his
mistress Henrietta under the same roof with his ex-mistress just down
the road, things are bound not to run smoothly. Add to that the
unexpected guest in the guise of cousin Edward whose unrequited love for
Henrietta might just tip him over the edge. Or is the party just an
excuse for Lucy to take matters into her own hands … with the help of
her faithful butler perhaps?
Sir Henry – Terry Oakes
Lucy – Brenda Joyce
Henrietta – Kelly White
Edward – Graham Steel
Midge – Janice George
John – Clive Stanyon
Gerda – Fiona Gordon
Veronica – Shula Fitzgerald
Doris – Hayley Baxter
Inspector Colquhoun – Ian Slipper
Detective Sergeant Penny – Peter Nicholson
Gudgeon – Ray Currier
by Mark Campbell
The Riverside Players’ recent production of The Hollow by Agatha Christie demonstrated the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the whodunit genre, writes Mark Campbell.
Set in a country house near London, the play builds slowly by establishing the various characters before the inevitable murder takes place. Among the suspects are sculptress Henrietta Angkatell (Kelly White), her mother the dotty Lady Angkatell (Brenda Joyce), doomy butler Gudgeon (Ray Currier) and larger-than-life movie star Veronica Craye (Shula Fitzgerald). Being a typical Christie plot, all of them have an equally valid reason for killing the cynical two-timing John Cristow (Clive Stanyon).
The 1946 novel features Hercule Poirot, but Christie ditched him for her stage adaptation. And while the original murder takes place outside, beside a swimming pool, here it is inside the Hollow’s garden room.
Director Lorraine Slipper had generally chosen her cast well, and there were some strong performances. Kelly White was excellent as the gung ho, emancipated sculptress, with Brenda Joyce hilarious as the comically eccentric mother, complaining about blood on her precious carpet. Clive Stanyon was every inch the world-weary John Cristow MD, trapped in a loveless marriage with the dimwitted Gerda (Fiona Gordon). Shula Fitgerald as the brash movie star was the perfect foil.
Jo Groves’ set was rather too basic for a home belonging to gentry, but this was partially offset by Shirley Hillier’s subtle lighting cues. A modernist sculpture was suggested by turning on a conservatory light and peering into the audience.
Despite appropriately melodramatic music by Ian Slipper, who also played the token detective, it was not clear whether the audience was supposed to take this creaky old offering seriously or else enjoy it as a mannered send-up. Although the superbly stylised curtain call gave a flavour of what could have been, the end result fell between two stools.
Previously published in the Bromley/Bexley/Dartford Times on 17 May, 2007.