Review by Roger Paine: Who Killed ‘Agatha’ Christie at the Devonshire Park Theatre

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THE PLAY, which concerns a drama critic who is killed by an actor and author whom he has lambasted in reviews of plays written by the latter, or in which he has performed, made this critic feel uncomfortably vulnerable!

With experienced actors in the only two roles, critic Arthur “Agatha” Christie (Neil Roberts) is lured by playwright John Terry (Stephen Rashbrook) to his well-furnished London apartment.

Without giving reasons for this clandestine meeting it soon becomes apparent that humiliation and revenge are high on the agenda. Especially when Terry reveals that Christie’s gay lover is having an affair with his wife and they are, apparently, consummating the relationship in the flat below.

Terry relays the sound of their voices, ‘in flagrante delicto’, to prove his point.

The thwarted thespian then commences torturing, in words, the man he despises and who, he believes, is responsible, through written words, for his failed stage career.

Written by the late Tudor Gates, the somewhat implausible scenario – long before the help-line of mobile telephones – results in an overly wordy play where the only action comes from Terry as he reveals his plan to slash Christie’s throat with a razor.

The tension of how and when he will achieve this is heightened when he binds and gags his victim and departs to murder the lovers before returning holding, it seems, the boyfriend’s severed head.

This gruesome act causes “Agatha” to suffer a fatal heart attack.

Despite professionally competent performances, but without sufficient contrast between the two actors’ voices, and a less than venomous Terry, the play teetered fitfully on the edge of black comedy.

It is more words than deeds and whilst there is a surprising twist at the end, the macabre events of this Ian Dickens production regrettably suppressed yawns rather than engendering the horrified screams pre-publicity predicted.