Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Vintage Christie keeps the twists coming

The Unexpected Guest

Hall Green Little Theatre


AGATHA CHRISTIE has provided all the essentials. The sound of a gunshot, the body, a spot of attempted blackmail, an invitation to follow a red herring – and, of course, the unexpected guest. 

It is all to do with the murder of the man in a wheelchair, who is already past caring by the time the action gets under way – which at once solves the pre-performance puzzle of why Richard Warwick is not listed among the characters although the drama is set in his study. 

But who pulled the trigger? That is where the audience starts to make its not entirely unexpected guess. But it probably came nowhere near to thinking that the wife and the mother of the dead man would take his precipitate departure quite so readily in their stride.

 It's distinctly odd, but on the first night they hardly seemed put out at all – after which Helen Dawson (Mrs Warwick) and Amy Leadbeter, as her daughter-in-law Laura, settled down to provide two interesting but distinctly different performances.


Both offer confidence that does not brook a quibble, but whereas the Dawson demeanour is one of quiet, confident reliability, Ms Leadbeter – for no reason that I could gather – comes strident and pushy.

Hers is by far the larger role and she sails through it with aplomb, but there seems nothing to account for her attitude – and although we do learn why she is clearly nowhere near as devastated as might have been expected, she could perhaps have offered something more subdued, if only for the rather important sake of at least portraying the grieving widow in front of a houseful of witnesses.

As it is, we are pinioned by declamatory distress, and it's rather disconcerting. 

Ara Sotoudeh gives a masterful account of Michael Starkwedder, the stranger with the fascinating name who turns up in the wake of a car crash, and there is a nice line in greasy unctuousness from Mel Hulme, as Henry Angell, embarking on the blackmail that is doomed to failure because Oliver Harvey Vallender, as Julian Farrar, isn't having any of it. Incidentally, Mr Vallender is intriguingly apt to stand with one arm at a right-angle behind his back, which could be something of a distraction because it's not the sort of thing one sees on a daily basis. 

In a play that shows its vintage – 1958 – by daring to use the word cripple twice, Dan Beaton gives a brave performance as the noisily retarded younger brother of the dead man. Louise Price shows the manipulative side of Miss Bennett (“Benny”) and Simon Dyke and James Marlow-Smith are the reliable representatives of the Welsh constabulary.

To 9.4.11.

John Slim 

Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate