SHE is St Mary Mead’s finest, brought to life by stars such as Margaret Rutherford, Joan Hickson, Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie. Yes, all have played Agatha Christie’s most famous amateur detective, Miss Jane Marple.
Next week, at the Church Hill Theatre, Anne Mackenzie follows in their footsteps when she dons the mantle of the elderly spinster sleuth in Edinburgh People Theatre’s (EPT) production of A Murder Is Announced.
Christie’s 50th novel, A Murder Is Announced was first published in June 1950. It was later adapted for the stage by Leslie Darbon, opening at London’s Vaudeville Theatre in 1977, with Dulcie Gray playing the lead role.
Set in the village of Chipping Cleghorn, Miss Marple finds the locals agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 13th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm. Friends please accept this, the only intimation.’
Is this a childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock, owner of Little Paddocks? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, several villagers begin to gather at the ‘scene to be’ of the crime with all sorts of awkward reasons but a definite interest.
Then, as the clock strikes 6.30pm, the lights all go out. Shots are fired. When the lights return a body is found.
Director, John Somerville, says, “Naturally, all the locals gather to see what will happen – never suspecting that it may be the end for one of them. Or will it?
“As Miss Marple is in the vicinity, the whole matter will be solved by her agile mind, but at some risk to herself.”
Of course, as you might expect, Sommerville is remaining tight-lipped about whose finger was on the trigger.
“Although the cast know the outcome, they are having great fun pretending to be the guilty party,” he laughs. “Whodunit? Come along and see if you can spot the clues first in this classic.”
Anne Mackenzie, an education welfare officer at Leith Academy, plays Miss Marple in the EPT production and admits that she was surprised to be offered the role... but then she is just a mere 51 years young.
“It’s quite a challenge, because it is a bit difficult to create someone who is about 20 years older than yourself, but I’ve got some nice wigs, hair dye and all that sort of stuff,” she says, adding with a laugh, “and I’ve got wrinkles already, so I just accentuate them a bit.”
Unfamiliar with Christie’s detective, Mackenzie admits the character surprised her.
“I’m playing her as a gentle, eccentric old lady with a sharp brain. She appears unassuming but there’s always something going on at the back of her mind and she can be quite forceful.”
A Murder Is Announced, Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road, Wednesday-Sunday, 7.30pm, £10, 0131-668 2019