The Mirror Crack’d  – The Royal – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

A couple of months ago I was in the delightful Yorkshire Spa town of Harrogate. What has that got to do with a review of The Mirror Crack`d I hear you asking? Its world famous author Agatha Christie disappeared for eleven days in December 1926 at the height of her fame and no one knew where she had gone!

The mystery became a story worthy of the author herself!  Christie disappeared from her home in Sunningdale and the following morning, her car, a Morris Cowley, was discovered empty on the edge of a chalk quarry with an expired driving licence and some of her clothes inside. Her disappearance sparked a nationwide manhunt and was seized upon by the tabloid press & a perplexed public. Christie resurfaced at The Old Swan Hotel in Harrogate which is where my story began!

Joe McFadden as Jason Rudd & Sophie Ward as Marina Gregg

Which brings me to Miss Jane Marple & The Mirror Crack’d. The book published in the UK in 1962 was successfully adapted as a feature film, The Mirror Crack’d, in 1980, starring the recently passed  Angela Lansbury as Miss Marple, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis.  On television, adaptations of the novel have starred Kingsthorpe, Northampton born Joan Hickson as Miss Marple in 1992 and Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple in 2011.

The story features amateur detective & super sleuth Miss Marple (Susie Blake) solving a mystery in the fictitious English village of St. Mary Mead. The story & plot evolves in a very clever way with events which have already taken place being described whilst the characters being spoken about are on stage! This way Miss Marple is able, from a seated position after a fall, can see & hear all of the events described! Still with me?

Local villager & friend Heather helps Miss Marple and takes her in for a cup of tea. Heather who likes to talk, tells Miss Marple how she had once met the American actress Marina Gregg, who has recently moved into the area and had bought Gossington Hall. Marina and her latest husband, film producer Jason Rudd, were hosting a fête which she had been invited to.

Sophie Ward as Marina Gregg & Susie Blake as Miss Marple

We then learn much later that when at the party Heather was speaking with Marina she had launched into a long story about how they had once met many years ago while Marina was visiting Bermuda, where Heather had worked at the time. Heather had been ill but because she was such a big fan of the actress she had left her sickbed to meet her favourite star and get her autograph. Marina had looked quite startled at this memory and a short time later, Heather collapses and dies! Whose daiquiri had she drunk? Was it meant for Marina? Who had committed the murder? As the plot unfolds there are several suspects. As Miss Marple points out, all are suspects, never rule out the most unlikely suspect!

It is the swinging 1960s in England and a wind of change is blowing across the country. This is highlighted a couple of times by references to `the development` an estate which has been built on the edge of the village and references are made to the young girls pushing prams around the development without a wedding ring in sight! It is also a statement about the class system within British society and changing expectations as well as a gripping murder mystery loaded with emotion with a sprinkling of psychology in a thrilling story of secrets, lost loves, and revenge.

It would be wrong of me to describe what happens as the play progresses and spoil the story for when you visit, there will be no plot spoilers from this reviewer. Needless to say I was gripped throughout trying to work out for myself, Who Did It!

Susie Blake as Miss Marple

There were a number of murder candidates to choose from, on a couple of occasions they were all lined up behind a screen for the audience, Miss Marple (Susie Blake) & Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot) to take a closer look at the suspects and slowly consider the facts which had been placed before them.

The roll call included Butler Guiseppe Renzo (Lorenzo Martelli), Lola Brewster (Chrystine Symone) American movie actress Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward), Producer Jason Rudd (Joe McFadden) Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts) Cherry Baker (Mara Allen), Ella Zielinsky (Sarah Lawrie), Heather Leigh (Jules Melvin) and David Partridge as Heathers Husband Cyril Leigh plus Holly Smith in the ensemble!

Joe McFadden is probably now known more for winning the 2017 series of Strictly Come Dancing with his professional dance partner Katya Jones than he is for his acting, but he has a vast biography of stage & television work including The Crow Road, Sex, Chips & Rock n’ Roll, Heartbeat and Holby City. His portrayal as American film director & Husband of actress Marina Gregg was accomplished. Joe did give his many admirers a few of his dance steps right at the beginning of the play when he briefly took his stage wife Marina for a short waltz around the stage. The whole cast were brilliant, everyone playing their character to perfection.

I really enjoyed my evening of Who Done It! I did not manage to work out who did it, but I thoroughly recommend this production. If you love a good crime thriller and like a puzzle you will certainly enjoy this terrific production. Catch it while you can!

The Mirror Crack’d continues at The Royal, Northampton until Saturday 5th  November   

Photography Credit: Ali Wright