By Ben Larwood & Carys Svendsen
‘The question is: who is going to be murdered?’
As an Agatha Christie newcomer who’s only watched the Doctor Who episode The Unicorn and The Wasp, I was intrigued by the invitation to the opening night of A Murder is Announced. I’ve watched Sherlock as well as a fair bit of Jonathan Creek and like to consider myself as a rather amateur detective mainly because I solved a Buzzfeed video entitled ‘Can you solve this murder before the detective?’ However, what made it more intriguing was that my theatre companion, Ben Larwood; a man well-acquainted with the works of Christie and many other mysteries really wanted to see the play and so I agreed to go and see it with him. Although we sound a bit like a Buzzfeed article (‘Christie Newbie watches Christie play with detective drama fan’), fortunately, this article won’t contain any reaction shots but instead contains images of the fantastic set which was presented before us on the 26th September performance at the Grand Theatre.
As a media student who did drama A level, the Grand Theatre stage will always remind me of the staging examples presented to us in exam preparation. However, the set for A Murder is Announced was incredibly realistic, including the door used on the left-hand side of the stage. The set was so precise in its detailing that the light behind the house entrance matched the time of day in the scene as well as giving the illusion of a fully built house on the stage itself (complete with period corridors). This then led me to gush about the mise-en-scène for most of the night, as well as squeak ‘I was not expecting that!’ on the way home.
The play itself is a masterpiece of mystery. The narrative is fantastic due to its fabrication of the characters backgrounds and will constantly keep you guessing throughout the play, right until the end. Be prepared for a permanent thinking face throughout the evening and sometime after due to the brilliant acting from the cast. However, this doesn’t mean that the narrative doesn’t work well due to not suspecting the actual murderer. On the contrary, the narrative of the play blends beautifully together and the explanation of what happens towards the end is ingenious due to the main character being placed in an unknown trap which leads to confession. As Ben observed after the play, ‘Agatha Christie plays always leave the audience in suspense right until the end.’
The actors themselves were crucial to ensuring that the murderer was never given away throughout the play as well as portray characters that they never were. Although the set and costumes themselves were fantastic in their own right, it was the actors which made the play as good as it was. With a keen eye, you could solve the mystery beforehand due to the actors providing little clues within their performances which you could see yet simultaneously not notice due to the subtlety of their actions. It was the cloak of innocence cast upon Janet Dibley’s character Letitia Blacklock that was a personal highlight of the play due to Dibley portraying an almost saint-like character one minute and a pure antagonist the next.
All in all, if you want to watch a play where you not only gawk at the set as well as the twist and turns within the play itself then I cannot recommend A Murder is Announced strongly enough. If a well-seasoned lover of detective dramas like Ben really enjoy the performance, as well as a newbie like me, still talk about the play for days after, then you know it’s worth seeing and is quite possibly one of my favourite plays of all time. It’s fully deserving of its 5* rating and I look forward to watching more Christie plays in the future!