Friday, 5 June 2009

Spider's Web - Richmond Theatre

Spider's Web by Agatha Christie
Director: Joe Harmston
Reviewer: James Higgins

This is the fifth production from the official Agatha Christie Theatre Company (In association with Bill Kenwright) following on from last year's national tours of And Then There Were None (also at Richmond) and Murder on Air that were hugely successful.

The script is based on Agatha Christie's original 1954 piece that was written specifically for actress Margaret Lockwood to play the lead role of Clarissa, the second wife of foreign office diplomat Henry Hailsham-Brown.
The action in this production takes place one evening in March 1952 at Copplestone Court, the Hailsham-Browns' house in Kent. The set (designed by Simon Scullion) centres around one large drawing room and helps to evoke a real sense of timelessness of the old English country houses.

There are some great performances amongst a very strong cast, notable ones include Bruce Montague (Sir Rowland Delahaye) who excels in his role as a local JP who tries to use all his powers to protect his young ward (the vulnerable Clarissa), Dennis Lill (Inspector Lord) who, not for the first time in his career plays the role of detective perfectly and Catherine Shipton (better known as Duffy in TV's Casualty), who is unrecognisable and demonstrates her strong versatility in pulling off a very believable Mildred Peake, the fussy gardener who is busy trying to cover up a secret. Michael Gabe makes an excellent Elgin (The Butler.)

It is however an outstanding performance by Melanie Gutteridge that really steals the show in a hugely convincing performance as Clarissa Hailsham Brown, the Lady of the house whose habit for spinning unconvincing tales may prove to be her downfall, once a murder is committed.

Spider's Web is a very enjoyable and excellent production that differs from many famous Christie plays in that it is more comedy thriller than all out spine chilling murder mystery. Once a body is discovered the tale begins to slowly unwind until the twists come thick and fast and the beauty is you are kept guessing right up until the end when you realise all is not what it had seemed and finally discover 'Whodunnit' (and no reader before you ask, it definitely wasn't the butler!)
The audience thoroughly appreciated the comedic touches throughout as well as the usual intrigue of trying to discover the murderer. The cast received raprapturous applause at the end and I highly recommend that if you get the chance, go and see another timeless classic from The Agatha Christie Theatre Company.

Spiders Web runs at Richmond until Sat 6th June
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