WHERE’S Hercule Poirot when you need him? We’ve been spoiled with lavish TV adaptations of Agatha Christie’s whodunnits where there’s usually a charismatic and quirky detective (Miss Marple or David Suchet’s wonderful Poirot) to lead the investigation so that when they’re absent it seems as though an old friend has missed the boat.
Murder on the Nile sailed into Milton Keynes Theatre last night and it really needed the impetus of either the late Peter Ustinov or the very much alive Suchet, who both appeared in screen versions of the story, to give the play a lift.
The Agatha Christie Theatre Company has been doing a sterling job breathing life into the writer’s novels but there are times when the stories are showing their age and no amount of gloss can rejuvenate them.
The company always assembles a who’s who of former TV soap stars to slip into the 1930s costumes. This time around there is the (maturely) glamourous Kate O’Mara (ex-Dynasty) playing an irascible social climber and snob who has a nice line in haughty disdain; ex-Corrie actress Chloe Newsome as an infatuated and jealous woman; ex-Footballer’s Wives glamour girl Susie Amy as a spoilt heiress; retired Soldier Soldier Ben Nealon plus the ever reliable old guard of The Royal’s Denis Lill as a crime-busting clergyman. Bringing up the rear is former pop idol and now company stalwart Mark Wynter as a psychologist.
But the story really needs a focal point - a Poirot - leaving it to Lill to solve the crime makes for a ponderous production. It took 40 minutes before we set sail along The Nile and a further 40 minutes before anyone was shot.
By the end we had another two murders - but what a wait!
As whodunnits go it follows the usual pattern - meet the characters, a generous amount of exposition to set out the story, a murder or more, and a resolution - but director Joe Harmston certainly makes the audience wait for their thrills.
O’Hara seemed to enjoy her character, overacting terribly but at least she injected the part with a bit of life (though someone should tell her to speak up for those not sitting in the stalls); Amy just overacted. The rest were terribly stilted though it fits with the age of the piece and can almost be excused.
But it’s a lavish production, with a stunning set, which will appeal to Christie fans and, if you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen the screen versions, the ending will come as a great surprise.
Murder on the Nile runs until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes