Death By Chocolate
Where there’s a will there’s a relative in Agatha Christie’s “A Murder is Announced.” And, of course, a murder or two. In Middle Ground Theatre Company’s charming revival of “A Murder is Announced - A Miss Marple Mystery,” old secrets come home to roost in this classic, Post-war, English murder mystery. One with so much deception and subterfuge, figuring out ‘who are you’ proves just as important as whodunnit.
In director Michael Lunney’s superbly designed set, evoking the drab elegance of an economically strained, early 1950s English drawing room, the friends and family of Letitia Blacklock freely come and go. An extremely close brother and sister, a dotty older woman, an aspiring unpublished writer, along with his honey loving mother and an unassuming widow, all parade their concerns to the maternal Letitia much to the frustration of the Russian housemaid. Why anyone would want to kill one of them is a complete mystery. But someone most certainly does, having gone to the effort to advertise the time and place of the murder in the local newspaper.
In Leslie Darbon’s overly wordy script, convolutions and cousins border on the confusing, almost losing sight of the wood for the trees. And sight of the delightful Miss Marple, played with wonderful unobtrusiveness by a superb Sarah Thomas. Smartly conveying the knitting loving detective as an ordinary Miss, and not a Sherlock Holmes styled super sleuth, Thomas reclaims an elegance and ease many other representations have forgotten. Indeed, Thomas boxes clever with Darbon’s problem script, which risks reducing Miss Marple to a side kick for the incredibly astute Inspector Craddock, played with superb, worldweary aplomb by an impressive Tom Butcher. Throughout, it’s the cast who prove to be the best thing about this production, bringing texture and depth to a range of classic types. From Kazia Pelka’s superb Mrs. Miniver styled Letitia, Jenny Funnell’s scene stealingly dotty Dora, Lucy Evans’ swaggering Noel Coward styled Julia, to Lydia Piechowiak’s reprisal as the delightful Mitzi, “A Murder is Announced” deals out characters in broad sweeping strokes, which its fine cast, across the board, elevate into something alive and engaging.
If Miss Marple doesn’t quite steal the show in “A Murder is Announced,” she certainly saves the day, with Thomas bringing that inexplicable grace that infuses every good English murder mystery. Like a huge slice of chocolate cake, “A Murder is Announced” might not be to everyone’s liking, but devotees are sure to enjoy this charming little indulgence.
“A Murder is Announced - A Miss Marple Mystery” presented by Middle Ground Theatre Company, runs at The Olympia Theatre until August 31.
For more information, visit The Olympia Theatre