Trying to guess whodunit has become a bit of a game among the theatre critics attending the first nights of the latest offerings by Bill Kenwright’s Agatha Christie Theatre Company when it stops by Milton Keynes Theatre each year.
So it was a bit of a let-down when, moments after Go Back For Murder opened last night that almost all of us sagely nodded our heads and realised that we’d seen Monsieur Poirot solve the crime on TV under another title some years previously.
But then some of us are Poirot buffs and others just enjoy a good murder mystery. We’re boring like that.
This week’s treat is strictly for the fans. It features an all-star line-up of vintage TV names who throw themselves into the preposterous story as though they’re enjoying a rather super game of Cluedo.
It’s all overplayed but, how can it not be, when the stories are now as old as the hills and audiences, fed a diet of Law & Order, CSI and the like have become as expert as the police in solving crimes?
So, after sussing the murderer, my mind wandered to other things – like was that an original 1966 Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian mini worn by a Sophie Ward (affecting a shocking Canadian accent - I thought it was Texan); or how delightful it was to see Lisa Goddard back on stage; or Gary Mavers’ impossibly full head of hair (he looked like a rather handsome bear); and how awfully thin Lysette Anthony appeared.
Christie Co. regulars Ben Nealon and Robert Duncan are back to join the above in a jolly romp that’s set in 1948 and 1968 and succeeds in telling the same story twice. In the first act each witness to the murder recalls their testimonies and, in the second act, they role play the event to try and solve the crime.
I’m not going to be a party pooper and tell you the answer. Go Back For Murder has all the usual red herrings you’d expect, and, if you haven’t seen the TV version (called Five Little Pigs), you’ll probably have a good time wallowing in the nostalgia of the piece.
None of the stars have to exert themselves and it was good to see that they are still working. Nealon is affable as a lovesick solicitor; the lovely Ms Goddard adds some much needed authority as a governess while Mr Mavers’ randy artist, with the bizarre name of Amyas Crale, is really a bit of a swine.
Sophie Ward makes a half decent stab at playing a young girl in the first act but is far more convincing in the role of her own mother.
It’s not Shakespeare but it’s a pleasant enough way to spend an evening. Shame David Suchet couldn’t have used his “leetle grey cells” to help solve the crime. We’d have been home in half an hour.