Colchester Theatre Group present an intriguing play by Phillip Meeks concerning the meeting and growing friendship of Agatha Christie and Margaret Rutherford, who famously played Miss Marple in four films in the 1960s.
Christie didn’t want Rutherford for the role, and Margaret had very good reasons for rejecting the part initially. These reasons are revealed as the play goes on.
Also on stage is The Spinster, a mysterious figure who communicates with both women, influences the action, and talks of murder. Fans of the books may quickly work out who she is, but there’s a nice reveal at the play’s conclusion.
The tragedy of Margaret’s early life is central to this, and Christie sets out to discover Margaret’s secret. The story is shocking; it will make you Google her when you return home. Christie also talks in-depth about her “disappearance” for 11 days, infamous for the gossip and rumour it unleashed.
The stage is a film set, cleverly using stagehands to set furniture and props, which keeps the action moving, and the piece is very well performed.
Sara Green is perfect as Christie, with her barbed comments (the play has delightful bitchy one-liners, especially when the women are vying for superiority), and finding real poignancy in the tale of her private struggles, no mean feat as Christie becomes very bitter about her success and her creations. Hanna Nunn does a fine job as Rutherford, perhaps needing to allow the tragedy to come through a little, but she is convincing in her portrayal of a woman who creates a caricature of herself to lock the real woman away. Cheyanne Hooks works delightfully with the audience as The Spinster, a strong realisation of character, though I found her knitting as the women revealed their darker secrets very distracting!
As is often the case, there were some first night nerves, but the piece will pace as the cast performs more. However, the three work together well, and although the play lacks a huge amount of conflict (often the women just sit and talk), the reveals are gripping and interesting, if favouring Rutherford more than Christie – now that’s a one-woman show waiting to be created!
Murder, Margaret and Me is showing at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester, until Saturday 11th November, with both a matinee at 2.30pm and an evening performance at 7.45pm.