Review: A Murder Is Announced

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FOR all our modern technology and social media, people still pick up their local rag to scan through the hatches, matches and despatches.

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Saughtonhall Church

FOR all our modern technology and social media, people still pick up their local rag to scan through the hatches, matches and despatches.

The charitable amongst us might use words like concern or compassion for others, the more cynical might suggest that we all like a good blether about other people.

This innate human inquisitiveness is something that Agatha Christie understood perfectly and manipulated with every trick she could conjure from her considerable literary sleeves to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

A Murder is announced is a perfect example of Christie in her prime.

When Dora Bunner’s Friday morning ritual of thoroughly reading the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette is rudely interrupted by the discovery of a sinister announcement printed in the Personals column, a stream of concerned visitors start popping by, bursting with curiosity about the strange missive.

And none are more curious than a little old lady by the name of Marple who is visiting her nephew in the village.

Hammy, melodramatic and knowing, A Murder is Announced’s script brims with catty observations and witty repartee.

It’s a joy for a small company in a church hall to perform. Not least because the Saughtonhall Drama Group pause for an interval tea break and raffle, adding an engaging authenticity to proceedings.

Chris Mitchell leads the drama as virtuous hostess Letitia Blacklock who spends the night defending her guests to Murray Petrie’s officious and suspicious Inspector Craddock.

While Ruth Gray, Judith Petrie and Scott Kerr aid the action by building up suspense and curiosity. Gillian McEvoy’s eccentric Hungarian cook, Mitzi, was a strong audience favourite, adding much needed punch to the show.

Ishbel Shand’s dignified Miss Marple shared much with Joan Hickson’s genteel portrayal of the role.

Director John Webster took a conventional approach to the material and, judging by the number of stage prompts, may not have had much rehearsal time with his performers.

Something that showed itself in the glacial pacing of the production, where a number of solid comic moments were lost to actors stumbling over lines.

Some more physicality from the actors would also have increased the energy on stage.

With such a lot of exposition to get through, however, it’s easy to see how these problems arose. And there’s really nothing quite like listening in on the detail of other people’s lives.

Runs until Saturday

JOSIE BALFOUR