HOW did Agatha Christie keep her readership? The grand mistress of sudden death, the gory kind, was game on to keep us guessing. As with this Whodunnit packing in the aisles of Lime Tree Theatre and packing in some laughs – thank you, Maid Mitzi (Lydia Piechowiak). Mitzi’s compulsive storytelling makes her a fugitive from a Russian novel, more Chekhov than Dostoevsky at that.
‘A Murder is Announced – A Miss Marple Murder Mystery’ opened on Monday and its startling gallery of rogues plays into Wednesday October 2, 8pm. Leslie Darbon adapted the play from a Christie thriller; Michael Lunney directs its twisty turns against the most luxe salon since Torch Players spanked out a definitive ‘The Constant Wife’.
So the set looks like a natural scene to gimlet-eyed Miss Marple (a kindly Sarah Thomas). No, it’s not her own village of St Mary Mead but she is visiting a nephew at the Old Vicarage in this sleepy cradle of Chipping Cleghorn. She has reason to arrive at the big house of Little Paddocks.
There, Lottie (Kazia Pelka, in arch form) is popular host to a puzzling quantity of cousins, bunking in like cheapskates on the run from a bill. But Lottie has it all and social generosity to boot.
Now throw fire into the mix, sizzling with the hiss of incest and smoke-hot with greed, lies and legacy liggers. There are more double identities than a Shakespearean romance. This presents tough work for the dignified Inspector, whom actor Tom Butcher invests with a handsome wit that complements Miss Marple. The two are knife and fork to this plate of Paddocks.
The constant snooping through keyholes and walking in unannounced suggest that manners never troubled any character on stage, for all their cucumber sandwiches. Certainly not Miss Marple, nor the goodly-seeming neighbours who call, responding to the advertisement in Limerick Post Newspaper that ‘A Murder is Announced for Friday the Thirteenth at Little Paddocks’.
The villagers think this is going to be a huge hoot. Why miss out on a chance to stop a bullet? The meanness of their gift giving is the other hoot. Half a jar of honey? A hankerchief? Little England never looked so small.
The one goodly soul, Miss Bunny/ Jenny Funnell, is sent to her maker early and the sherry shenanigans continue with more Revelations than the Bible.
Booking on www.limetreetheatre.ie