Susie Blake as Miss Marple. Picture: Ali Wright

The Mirror Crack'd

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd, first published as a novel in 1962, has seen many an adaption over the years and the original premise of a country house, murder mystery has wandered well off the path in this adaption by Rachel Wagstaff.

While all the classic elements of a Christie whodunnit remain, there’s now a deeper dramatic and more contemporary tone that many times is at odds with the purity of Christies original purpose, that simply of a good thriller.

What has been added is an attempt to develop each of the characters emotional content and personal loss. It’s admirable but at times distracting, as practically everyone gets the chance to breakdown and confess their anguished mental state.

Even the once amiable Chief Inspector Craddock now is a troubled and at times angry man, haunted by the death of his mother at an early age. Wagstaff doesn’t spare him either in being a man with any capability to either make the tea, handle the case or his own personal issues.

It is of course at times central to a few light hearted and comical moments, but offset against the addition of the more serious overtones is where the plays balance suffers in its own identity crisis. 

Unlike the original and most adaptions of a murder mystery, we don’t actually get to see the crime at all until the end, as from the start the deed is simply reported on by others. Miss Marple is reduced, through an ankle injury, to being almost chair bound and left to entertain an assortment of witnesses in her home.

Each of these go through the motions of explaining the night before and this is further enhanced by flashbacks with the cast dropping in and freezing at certain points. If you miss any of that dialogue, then as you get to see the victim very much alive, you might have a problem realising who the victim is at all. 

While this is a clever and inventive way of reclaiming the time of the unseen murder, the net effect is the action becomes a physical stage performance, rather than a classic whodunnit. The second half of the play has less of this approach and works far better for it. 

Fortunately the performances rescued the often over complex staging. Susie Blake brought a well-rounded and warm air to her Miss Marple. The scenes with Dolly Bantry her friend, played by Veronica Roberts, were the most endearing. As the pair discuss their loss of partners and their years of living, there is a sense of genuine friendship and poignancy created by these two very experienced performers.

Oliver Boot plays a strong and robust Inspector Cradddock and did well in the role but the rewrite of his character is unconvincing. At times he’s inept, others vicious, sometimes bumbling and childlike, and then eventually broken, not the man Christie envisioned for sure.

Sophie Ward was a very convincing Marina Gregg but again with everyone now pitching in with their personal tragedies the focus on her as the central character in the plot is slightly diminished.

There was great support in the form of Christine Symone and Mara Allen as the estranged step daughters Lola and Cherry. Joe McFadden as Jason Rudd performed well but his potential motive as a murderer was pretty much lost in this adaption.

This production just about keeps you interested but if you are expecting a classic take on the original then you might be disappointed. As the play heads towards its denouement it becomes pretty depressing as one after another the characters reveal the personal tragedies they have endured in their lives and breakdown.  If however you want a darker, more character driven play, with some clever contemporary staging and strong performances then on reflection, this cracked mirror might be for you. To 18-02-23.

Jeff Grant


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