Review: Newport Playgoers’ Murder On The Nile, Dolman Theatre, Newport

As Newport Playgoers exchange the wild, wet and windy winter of South Wales 2020 for the hot, muggy, climates of 1937 Egypt, a murder is about to take place.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile is a web of intrigue before it even gets to the stage! Adapted by Christie from her 1937 novel Death on The Nile, several characters don’t make the transfer to the stage version. Most notable by his absence is Belgian Detective, Hercule Poirot, whom Christie was severely tired of when it came to adapt the book for stage by the early 1940s. Although Christie replaced Poirot with a new creation, Canon Pennefather, none of the essential dramatic ingredients were lost, including a boat, The Lotus, full of colourful characters, a wealthy heiress, a jilted lover turned stalker and as always, someone with murder on their mind.

Director James Reynolds has assembled a fabulous cast for The Lotus journey of intrigue and suspense along The Nile.  The audience are introduced to the characters as they board the effectively designed deck, supplemented by exotic sound design for effect. Each character is harassed by Adrienne Cook and Fay Grummitt’s comical shore-side bead sellers, who get top marks for persistency before been shooed away by Louise Griffiths boat steward.

Becky Phillips immediately strikes a chord with the audience as the strict, snobbish and subtle as a sledgehammer Ffoliot Ffolkes. Miss Phillips mixes arrogance with humour, bringing a welcome contrast to the heightening drama.

Natalie Evans as Ffoliot Ffolkes delicate niece, Christina is constantly pursued by Dylan Secker’s wise cracking but observant Mr Smith, while Nathan Hodge combines tension with authority as Dr Bessner.

Emma Phillips is a commanding, excitable and glamourous presence as heiress Kay Mostyn. Christopher Cox as her husband, Simon, scales emotions from coolness to hysteria as the plot thickens. Charlotte Giles as Kay’s maid Louise, steadily strengthens her role with presence as the play progresses, culminating in her own moment of intrigue and suspense opposite Cox’s Mostyn.

Longstanding Playgoers member Christopher Bissex really comes into his own as Kay’s uncle and guardian, Canon Pennefather. Surprisingly, this is Bissex’ first Christie role, as he keeps the audience guessing as to his true intentions, mixing a magnificent air of mystery with dourness and intellect.

Emma McCarthy makes a welcome return to the stage as Simon’s ex-fiancée turned stalker Jacqueline de Severac. Miss McCarthy sends the drama tremors through the Richter scale on her arrival, commanding a dark brooding presence, even in silent moments. Her stand-out scenes for me were her confrontations with Bissex’ Pennefather as she combines passionate dialogue with unmissable high drama.

Newport Playgoers presentation of Murder on The Nile will keep new murder-mystery fans guessing as to whodunnit right up to the plays climax, while similarly scratching that Poison Ivy itch for long-term Agatha Christie fans.

  • Catch Murder on The Nile before it sets sail for good on Saturday March 7, 2020.

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