Hercule Poirot’s sleuthing powers faced an unexpected challenge on the first night (Monday, March 10) of this week’s production at the Devonshire Park Theatre in Eastbourne.
Fifteen minutes into Act Two of the Agatha Christie thriller Black Coffee, the theatre’s lighting board crashed and the stage was plunged into a grey half-light.
Robert Powell, consummate and nerveless as the famous Belgian detective, remarked to the audience that “we need to throw more light on this case”, before co-star Lisa Goddard commented that “one of the servants in the cellar has thrown the wrong switch”.
But frantic efforts by the theatre technical team failed to solve the problem, and after a twenty-minute delay the audience were told that the show could not continue.
They were offered refunds or the chance to re-book for one of the seven remaining performances of the play later in the week.
Robert Powell said afterwards that this was the first time he had ever failed to finish a stage performance because of technical problems.
“I do remember a production of Kind Hearts and Coronets here at the Devonshire Park, some 14 years ago, which was interrupted but then resumed. But this was a first.
“Never mind, it’s a wonderful venue and we hope the audience will all manage to come back – otherwise they will never know who dunnit!”
“It was rather eerie in the half-light” commented fellow actor Robin McCallum, who plays Captain Hastings. “But we couldn’t have carried on or the audience would have missed lots of business – and some of the vital clues for solving the case!”