Agatha Christie’s plays are often tightly timed and suspensefully wrought, simultaneously thoughtful and entertaining. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said of the present production. It dragged on for hours without any feeling of momentum or excitement. The first half alone, lasted a full hour and a half without any sort of plot development until the very end. The second half too, even after the expected murder, sullenly plodded on until the great Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, finally revealed the who and how of the crime. The show was, therefore, quite disappointing; not particularly awful, but not special in any way either.
Various factors contributed to this sense of stasis, but chief among them was the cast. The play is very much an ensemble piece with characters as one dimensional place-holders all thrown together in a strange environment. Here we have the aristocrat, the star, the socialite, the Americans, the nouveau riche and so on, and much of the interest comes (or should come) from their interactions. Yet, the cast consistently failed to work together in any real way. At times it seemed almost as if they had only been rehearsed individually, with characters not physically reacting until their opposite number had finished speaking. The result was farcically disjointed, with actors staring deadpan waiting for lines to finish and then suddenly springing to life when it was their ‘turn’ to do so. There were standout performances by Gareth Russell as the dandy Timothy Allerton and Emerald Fennell as the washed up star Salomé Otterbourne, but even they were not so much acting as offering caricatures merely to draw laughs. Matt Lacey’s Hercule Poirot was less the quirky Belgian detective so absorbed by his work that he cannot see his own oddities than a twitching buffoon whose skill as a detective was only believable for the lines
he is given. Indeed, Lacey’s attempted francophone belge accent was so thick that he often tripped himself up.
Eventually we find out who and just how in the truly surprising style of Agatha Christie (don’t worry, I won’t give it away), but Poirot’s explanation of the crime came more as a relief to cold audience members than as the sort of shocking revelation that one might expect.