There’s nothing like a great whodunnit mystery. Wiltshire Creative and Wales Millennium Centre’s co-presentation of the Agatha Christie classic The Mirror Crack’d opened its stint at Cardiff’s New Theatre on Wednesday evening and although the story is set in the early 1960s, never has it felt more contemporary in presentation and style.
The Mirror Crack’d reflects changing times, stepping out of the post-war era into the emerging 1960s where girls wear trousers, supermarkets replace the local corner shop and the magic of Hollywood gives everybody in the remotest places in the UK to dream about. Such is the case in one sleepy English village where a Hollywood film is about to be made featuring a beautiful film star.
Not far away, amateur sleuth Jane Marple is recuperating from a foot injury whilst lost in thoughts of her past and feeling that the world has no more need of her detection skills, that is, until a mysterious death calls into question the past of all those present. With everybody’s version of events different, can Miss Marple untangle the deceit?
Under Melly Still’s direction, Miss Marple’s deduction skills have been sharpened for a 21st Century audience, with a presentation that rivals any TV episode of Sherlock. Richard Kent’s chasmic set design gives depth and space to the unfolding events of The Mirror Crack’d, allowing events to unfold in a generic stylised backdrop. Does the audience see events take place in Miss Marple’s house? the murder scene? a Hollywood film set or Miss Marple’s mind’s eye as she reflects on her past and unravels the mystery? or all of them? The possibilities are endless as the story unfolds allowing characters to enter and leave and rewind and replay scenes to deliver different perspectives.
Susie Blake is perfectly cast in the role. Carrying a bubbly air, her portrayal is strong, even in the most vulnerable of situations but equally human and realistic when overcome with pain while trying to answer a mysterious ringing telephone set away from her rest chair, “Oh bugger!” she cries, her Marple has arrived and the audience love her!
Along for the murder mystery are Julia Hills as the plummy but comical Dolly Bantree whos Simon Shepherd as the awkward Chief Inspector Craddock, frequently at his wits end trying to work out whodunnit and equally frustrated when Marple offers up her wise observations.
Then its hardly surprising when your cast of suspects features Joe Dixon as brash Hollywood producer Jason Rudd, Suzanna Hamilton as his wife, the regal actress, Marina Gregg and Gillian Saker as rising star, Lola Brewster.
As in most Agatha Christie drama’s, its clear from the beginning not everything is as it seems. Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation presents the audience with a few “usual suspects”, in the form of Huw Parmenter as servant, Giuseppe and Katie Matsell as home carer, Cherry Baker. Both actors keep the audience guessing as to their involvement, if any, with the crime!
Special mention must ago to Katherine Manners as Heather Leigh who gets caught up in the crime scene on several occasions through a variety of different perspectives. Through performance and choreography, she is a delight to watch on the stage.
The Mirror Crack’d is everything you could want from an Agatha Christie stage play, combining a classic story-telling formula with contemporary presentation and most importantly, keeping the audience guessing right up until its final moments.
You have a chance to witness The Mirror Crack’d at Cardiff’s New Theatre until April 6, 2019.