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/

Popular posts from this blog

Review of DNA by University of Northampton BA Actors at Jacksons Lane Theatre, Highgate, London

The final year performances of BA Actors this year upped sticks and headed away from their Northampton Royal territory and gathered to show their skills in London.

The first of the three shows being performed was Dennis Kelly's DNA, a play which I saw performed on the Royal stage itself four years ago. I enjoyed it for its dark mysterious nature and was looking forward to seeing a different interpretation of the show. It tells the tale of a group of youngsters who do something really bad, and proceed to attempt to cover it up, resulting in the real bad, well, getting more bad. It's dark yes, but also, very funny at times.

It opens with a looming movement piece of theatre, which I always love and this was no different for me, brooding and sinister. It's quite a long opening, which perhaps, in the end, becomes too long, but it's a fabulous piece of theatre for me. It set's the scene very well for Kelly's dark piece to unfold and in the hands of these, about to gr…

Flash Festival 2018: Persecuted by United-Force Theatre Company at Hazelrigg House, Northampton

It's perhaps a shame that the major talking point after United-Force Theatre Company's production of Persecuted is its final scene, and more so over the sheer realism of it, rather than anything directly related to the acting and writing of it. The shame is that it overshadows what is quite a brilliant piece of theatre in its own right, well constructed and superbly acted by the trio in the group, Alexander Forrester-Coles, Chris Tyler and Radostin Radev.

The date is 11th May 2005 and the Iraq War is no longer having the initial success that it had after destroying Sadam Hussain's regime. In a camp in Basra, Mohammed bin Osama bin Laden (Radostin Radev) is captured and under interrogation by commander James Farrell (Alexander Forrester-Coles), the good cop of the story, and Dan (Chris Tyler),  a Lieutenant, very much of the bad cop variety.

It's an ugly, but also a very vivid tale, claustrophobic and always intimidating. When the actors are not churning through the int…

Flash Festival 2018: Drained by Open Eye Theatre at Hazelrigg House, Northampton

Back in 2015 when I was attending my second year at the Flash Festival, I had the pleasure of seeing a show called I Forget What I’ve Forgotten, a solo show performed by the superb Catherine Garlick, it was very much based on personal experiences, and it was one of very few Flash shows that I have made time to see a second time. That second time, it became the only Flash that I stood at the end of (to date), and it was the first that emotionally hit me hard.

While I didn't stand at the end of Open Eye Theatre's Drained (I was incredibly close), it left me a spent force of emotion. My fellow blogger and companion of the week The Real Chrisparkle, witnessed my tears, and I was actually perhaps as emotional as I have ever been at the end of any theatre show.

Drained was a slow burner of emotion, which I guess just gently took hold like no other before. Our three characters, Laura (Bryony Ditchburn) and her two brothers, Will (Robert Charles) and Jamie (Jake Wyatt) gather at the wa…