Skip to main content

Review of The Secret Adversary at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Poor old Tommy and Tuppence, forever playing third fiddle to the might of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. However maybe 2015 will be their breakthrough year some 93 years from their creation. There is not just this clever and fun play, but a certain David Walliams set to appear before the end of the year as Tommy Beresford to Jessica Raine's Tuppence.

However first we have this gem of a little play to contend with. Adapted by Sarah Punshon (who also directs) and Johann Hari (an interesting history himself, have a Google), from the novel of the same name, it featured at first perhaps nothing you would expect of a play based on an Agatha Christie novel. We had singing, dancing and musical instrument playing from the outset and we may all have thought that we were at a cabaret show. It soon fell somewhat back into type once the usual multi-layered Christie tale (this time involving top secret papers in the hands of a lady survivor of a ship sinking) began to evolve.

It did however remain a curious mix that perhaps you got or didn't get. I certainly got it and was more than happy to go along for the ride. Madcap, zany and just darn silly are probably on my wavelength. Rather fascinatingly my fellow Twitter reviewer @chrispoppe was somewhat less appreciative of the show and highlighted an important factor to consider. Those more knowledgeable of the source matter may not be as fond of the piece as it does apparently detract somewhat from the original Christie novel. I suspect we should compare this therefore more to the "based on" ITV Miss Marple adaptions, rather than their much more authentic Poirot interpretations.

Performances for the most part are lively and frivolous in the extreme. Mostly overplayed, as in keeping with the whole show. Emerald O'Hanrahan is at all times a playful Tuppence, capturing the earnestness that the role deserves. Elizabeth Marsh plays her two main roles heavy on comedy value, especially when she sports the facial adornments. Standout for me though is Morgan Philpott, who with his sprinkling of magic tricks and rather pompous collection of characters, invariably nearly steals every scene his is in.

Tom Rogers set design is also another little star of the show. All odd shapes and cubbyholes that offer not only a seamless multi-location environment, but some delightfully silly Keystone Cops chase sequences. Also superb are a couple of highly inventive scenes. The projection scene involving the sinking of the Lusitania is both very funny and cleverly realised. As is that wonderful keyhole scene as Tommy (Garmon Rhys) observes what the baddies are up to. There is also a curious modern musical montage scene that may not be to everyone's taste perhaps, but I suppose it worked in Moulin Rouge, so no harm done. Then we have a willy in my face joke, so all negatives are forgotten.

So we have a play that is somewhat lackadaisical with its approach to the story and one which might offend the Agatha Christie purists. For myself however, it was a two hour riot of odd and interesting entertainment, that had at all times the fun and bizarre factor high above the serious adaptation business. This will work for perhaps as many as it won't I suspect. However if you are the sort who would like to see a light espionage story, which features people playing musical instruments and occasional magic tricks, you will not leave The Secret Adversary disappointed.

««««


Performance reviewed: Wednesday 25th March, 2015 (matinee) at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.
The Secret Adversary was at the Royal & Derngate between Tuesday 24th March, 2015 to Thursday 26th March, 2015. The play is touring until 9th May, 2015. Details are here: https://www.watermill.org.uk/agatha_christies_the_secret_adversary_on_tour

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Bombshell by Contact Light Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Whether it is an overwhelming success or mostly a failure, I have over the years grown a huge affinity for fresh new work on the stage. The need to regurgitate and rework old pieces continuously may well get easy bums on seats, but at the end of the night, it has no doubt pleased a few but it hasn't really made any future impact on theatre of the future. Presenting a new play and new work, however, who knows what it might have seeded in the years to come?

Therefore as I watched Bombshell, not only a new play, but also the first offering from a new theatre company, I was thrilled that first of all, it leaned much more towards the success line, and also that over half filling the theatre, it had also put quite a few of the bums on seats as well.

Curiously I have recently read Festen by David Eldridge, and while Bombshell goes much its own way, I felt early on, I (and perhaps others in the audience), felt I had a distinct advantage over some of …

Review of Balm in Gilead, University of Northampton BA Acting (Creative Acting) at Maidwell Hall, Northampton

Watching the production of Balm in Gilead sees my entering the fifth year of following the University of Northampton acting students, and what theatre they have provided over the years!

Balm in Gilead is no less intriguing than anything that has gone before, written in 1965 by Lanford Wilson, you might think this would be a dated item for the young students to be performing, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Set in a cafe (transposed to England from its original American setting), it sees the lives of addicts, homeless and sex workers converge into a mixture of good but mostly bad moments.
My first time in the Maidwell Hall saw an encounter with a brilliantly realised community full of the world of the cafe and the surrounding homes, cardboard boxes and dishevelled beds. As we enter the characters of this world begin living alongside us, addressing us, begging us for money, pushing shopping trolleys around offering off the cuff exchanges with the audience and confronti…

Review of This Evil Thing at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

This Evil Thing written and performed by Michael Mears isn't my first encounter with a play about conscientious objectors, however, it absolutely is the most detailed in its explanation of the subject. A clear and absolute labour of love from Michael Mears, and an obviously very personal thing for him, it leaves the audience pretty much in its grip for the whole of its 80 minutes.

Almost uniquely, our performer Michael Mears is in the theatre stalls upon entry, observing the arrival of the audience and indeed exchanging conversation at times. It's fascinating to see a performer not only there, but seemingly so relaxed pre-show and as he bounds on the stage at show start, this little nugget proves intriguing in itself.

Michael Mears is a captivating presence on stage, as previously experienced on the same stage in A Tale Of Two Cities and The Herbal Bed, therefore it comes as little surprise that he has a confident ability to make a one-man show work, and so well. With the use …