An assortment of October theatre news

Full casting has been announced for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s upcoming production of Misfits, an innovative new hybrid of live theatre and digital content, playing 12-22 November 2020. Bookers will purchase a ticket which will allow them the choice of watching the show be performed live onstage in front of a socially
distanced audience or streamed to their homes, right up until the day of the show.

Misfits intertwines four inspirational tales of Essex resilience to make an unmissable world premiere by four of the region’s most exciting playwrights: Anne Odeke, Guleraana Mir, Kenny Emson and Sadie Hasler and will be co-directed by QTH Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul and Emma Baggott. The cast is Anne Odeke, who is also writing part of the piece, Gemma Salter, Mona Goodwin and Thomas Coombes. Continue reading “An assortment of October theatre news”

Review: And Then There Were None, Richmond Theatre

Ten Little Indians were not PC;
but better than th’original from Mrs Christie.

(So) Nine Little Soldier Boys were chosen instead;
To set up the rhyme, leaving ten people dead.

Eight Little Soldier Boys now touring the UK;
From Jan’ry to November with this well-travelled play.

Seven Little Soldier Boys might call this a classic;
Most likely since its done the rounds since the Jurassic.

(But) Six Little Soldier Boys cannot deny;
A master storyteller whose works will never die.

Five Little Soldier Boys might say to you;
Pay some attention here and get a big clue.

Four Little Soldier Boys will spot some TV stars;
Emmerdale, Blue Peter, Pascoe, crowdpleasers hurrah!

Three Little Soldier Boys will also see Paul Nicholas;
A permatanned acting colossus, his presence here will trick us.

Two Little Soldier Boys produced by Bill Kenwright;
But no role here for Miss Seagrove, I hope their future’s still bright.

(Now) One Little Soldier will give you guilty pleasure;
Directed by Joe Harmston, it’s a mystery to treasure.

The name of the show is And Then There Were None
Now I’m rhyming with Susan Penhaligon

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with 2 intervals)
Booking until 30th May, then touring to Gravesend, Crawley, Rhyl, Croydon, Cardiff, Harrogate, Brighton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Bury St Edmunds, Dublin, Leeds, Cambridge, Swansea, Torquay, Southend, Swindon, Ipswich, Tunbridge Wells, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Derby and Manchester

Review: Witness for the Prosecution, Richmond Theatre

“You want to know too much…”
It’s 1954 and a handsome young man stands in the dock, accused of the murder of a rich elderly woman whom he befriended. His wife’s testimony could save him but not all is what it seems as she becomes a Witness for the Prosecution. Playing in Richmond for a week as part of a tour which goes to Malvern, Southend and Cambridge next, Agatha Christie’s play looks at the nature of truth in the English legal system and how people are not always what they seem, even to those closest to them, and puts us the audience in the role of the jury, trying to make sense of the conflicting stories and information presented to us in order to prevent either a guilty man escaping justice or an innocent man from the gallows.

Considering that this is a touring show and Richmond Theatre’s auditorium is hardly the most flexible of spaces at first glance, the set is quite frankly amazing. The opening scene, set in chambers, is a gloomy, darkly atmospheric affair with dark panelled wood all around and a bare hint of a glow from a fireplace. But then as we move to the court case, the lights go up and a very impressively mounted, multi-level courtroom is fully revealed and it looks extremely convincing. It has been superbly designed by Simon Scullion and it’s a good job, given that we only leave the courtroom briefly once more in the entire play.

I did find the opening sequence a little flat, somewhat underpowered in the half-light of Sir Wilfred’s offices with a vast amount of information to get through in order to set the scene and necessarily static but fortunately this did not last for too long with the advent of the trial. And what a trial it is: driven by two barnstorming performances from Mark Wynter and Denis Lill as the opposing QCs, teasing the stories and crucial details from an array of supporting characters including the not-quite-as-batty-as-she-seems housekeeper played by Jennifer Wilson. Lill is particularly strong in his pursuit of proving Leonard’s innocence, ably assisted by Robert Duncan’s Mr Mayhew. The courtroom is then topped off with Peter Byrne’s judge who frequently diffuses the tension with some very amusing non sequiturs since he’s completely out-of-touch with the times, but Christie cleverly plays with our expectations and provides him with a razor-sharp legal mind should we begin to underestimate him.

Ben Nealon as the accused Leonard and Honeysuckle Weeks as his mysterious wife Romaine are also both engaging, which is crucial in keeping us engrossed in the twists and turns of the trial, but also in the subtle playing of the hidden depths to both characters. Is all as it really seems? With these two, we’re kept guessing right until the very end, and it is an ending utterly worth the wait, Christie showing consummate skill in deploying some humdingers of game-changing significance but which maintain the integrity of the drama, they may be unexpected but they fit perfectly.

The only small niggle that I had was the presence of the jury onstage. Christie intended the audience to be the jury, we’re the ones making a judgement, and we are constantly addressed by all parties as such so it felt a little incongruous to then have a jury sitting upstage who were basically ignored throughout the show. On the other hand, the use of so many extras gave a real sense of bustle and authenticity to the courtroom scenes that was very pleasing to see.

Well-staged, well acted, well written, I really enjoyed all aspects of this production and the Agatha Christie Theatre Company look like they have another hit on their hands: this is one gripping courtroom drama that you will definitely want to bear witness to.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (although advertised as 2 hours 45 minutes)
Programme cost: £3
Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews