The Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, brings her whodunit Go Back for Murder to the Opera House Manchester for one week only from 14-19th October. One of Christie’s last plays it is based on her novel Five Little Pigs (minus the appearance of super sleuth Hercule Poirot).
Set in the 1960s we meet Carla Le Marchant, a young woman intent on clearing her mother’s name nearly 20 years after she was charged with her husband’s murder. In her hunt to track down the five other suspects Carla has to work out who may have been the culprit and why her mother left her a note saying she was innocent after she died in prison.
With a cast of familiar faces straight from a retro Sunday night TV schedule (think Heartbeat, Soldier Soldier and Peak Practice) you would be right to assume there was more than a little blue rinse awash in the audience. Christie may be a murder mystery icon but without the grittiness of La Plante or PD James her work has little to attract a modern day crowd and unfortunately it’s only die-hard fans (excuse the pun) who have turned up to see this play. Despite this the play still manages to make you want to play detective and guess the culprit with its sprinkling of red herrings along the way.
Actress Sophie Ward takes on the dual role of Carla and her mum Caroline Crale as the play flashbacks to the scene of the crime in 1948. Ward is clearly an experienced performer but she seems to struggle with the Canadian accent of Carla and looks far more at ease as her middle class English mother when we move into Act 2.
Ben Nealon as Justin Fogg, Carla’s trusty solicitor sidekick manages to keep the plot moving. Nealon weaves in between characters with an almost upper class Columbo panache, slowly unraveling their secrets.
All things considered this is a well-executed production of an Agatha classic…
Bringing a double dose of the dramatics is Lysette Anthony as Elsa Greer the muse of Carla’s artist father Amyas. Anthony is a tad OTT at times but can be forgiven as her deliciously diva performance manages to lift some of the staler moments in the play.
Other cast members include Gary Mathers as Amyas Crale the unfortunate murder victim with an eye for the ladies and Liza Goddard who plays the ferociously loyal governess who knows more than she lets on.
All things considered this is a well-executed production of an Agatha classic, it’s just a shame the first half of the play is a series of overlong duologues which provide little information or action from the characters. For those who stick with it a much better second half awaits as the pace picks up and we ‘go back’ in time to reconstruct events leading up to the murder.
Go Back for Murder is the tenth production from The Agatha Christie Theatre Company who mount a major new production every year at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, before embarking on a national tour.
Go Back For Murder
Opera House, Quay Street, Manchester
Monday 14 to Saturday 19 October
0844 871 3018