Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Spiders Web - Floral Pavillion, New Brighton

Spider’s Web by Agatha Christie
Director : Joe Harmston
Reviewer: Marie Kenny

Admittedly, I may have concocted the odd elaborate lie or two in my time (ok maybe even three- at a push). But stumbling upon a dead body in my house and lying to the police about it is, fortunately, way out of my league.

Not so, for the heroine of Agatha Christie’s ‘Spider’s Web’, in fact Clarissa Havisham-Brown, is known for her over-active imagination and lies with incredible ease. Set in 1952, Clarissa is the wife of Henry Havisham-Brown, a foreign office diplomat. Their country manor home, Cobblestone Court, complete with secret levers and hidden drawers, is the perfect setting for a murder.

Lying on the floor of the drawing room, behind a chair, with his head bashed in, Clarissa stumbles upon Oliver Costello. Costello is Henry’s ex-wife’s new husband and had visited earlier in the day, threatening to take her step-daughter Pippa away. Her husband is working late, the servants have the night off and her ward Sir Rowland Delahaye and his friends Jeremy Warrender and Hugo Birch are at the golf club having dinner.

So all that leaves is step-daughter Pippa, who emerges from a secret cupboard leading to the library to announce that she hadn’t intended to kill him, well then, mystery solved? Of course not. The murder is committed by an unseen hand and so the scene is set for a classic whodunit. The play is filled with clues, red herrings and twists and turns only to be expected from the pen of Agatha Christie.

Directed by Joe Harmston, the decision has been made to draw on the comedy of the piece, each of the characters is a caricature of their time and status. From the obedient but mysterious butler, to the larger than life, intrusive, thigh slapping gardener, whose mad persona may not be all it seems. As such, the seriousness of a murder occasionally becomes a sideline in this borderline farce.

The highlight of the play is Melanie Gutteridge’s performance as Clarissa, she takes on the character with charm and grace and it must be said that she carries much of the action and the pace on stage. From her cheerful hostess ways at the start, to her desperate cover-up story she holds the audiences attention throughout.

A definite low point on the other hand was Karen Elliot as Pippa. The incessant high pitched whining was enough for me to hope that there maybe another murder to come.

This is not the greatest of thrillers, I certainly wasn’t gripped at the edge of my seat. But if you’re after an old fashioned night at the theatre with a strong cast and an element of mystery thrown in, then this comedy thriller could be for you.

The Spiders Web runs at the Pavilion until Sat 30th May
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