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

Suspects and bodies galore

Hello, hello, hello, what's going on 'ere then! Dan Taylor as Edmund Swettenham, (left), Lynn Ravenhill as Mrs Swettenham, Sandy Tudor as Letitia Blacklock, Sue Hunt as Dora Brunner, Marika Farr as Phillipa Haymes and Alex Parkinson as Patrick Simmons . . . and body No 1

A Murder is Announced

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


THESE days we all know from TV that the average crime scene investigator, or CSI as we all know them, merely needs to sniff the air at a crime scene to tell you the age, sex, inside leg measurement and name of the first pet of the murderer.

Science and facts will bring down the most skilled, brutal and devious killer in an hour – 40 minutes if you allow for the ads.

All of which means Agatha Christie's gentler pace of country house murders, with servants, busybody neighbours, guests with pasts that don't quite ring true – and superannuated sleuth Jane Marple – are in danger of looking dated and old fashioned, a fate which has befallen more than one professional production attempting a revival.

So it is to the immense credit of a fine cast and director Pamela Meredith that the mystery not only kept up the suspense but also the interest of a full house in a wonderfully entertaining evening.

We can dismiss the police, a no-nonsense, methodical  country inspector in the shape of Craddok, played with gentle authority by Colin Young and Sgt Mellors, played by Nick Haynes, and probably the first corpse – played rather stiffly by Richard Taylor doubling up on his stage manager duties -  which leaves us with nine murder suspects.

Although it would have been a novel twist to have Miss Marple committing all the murders to keep her mysteries going, Agatha missed that particular trick, which means any of eight villagers and inhabitants of Little Paddocks, or any combination of course, could be the murderer(s), with enough permutations, possibilities and motives to keep an audience guessing all night.

So we were just lucky to have matter of fact Craddock and Jane Marple on hand to solve it for us. Director Meredith, incidentally, played Miss Marple when the company last performed the play and this time round it is Joan Wakeman who gives a very assured and understated performance as Christie's celebrated pensioner sleuth.

The mystery opens with an announcement of a murder at Little Paddocks at 6.30 that night in the notices in the local weekly – and right on cue we have a body - but not one belonging to anyone we know.

On the case - Joan Wakeman as Miss Marple

The real target of the killer appears to have been Letitia Blacklock, owner of Little Paddocks, played confidently by Sandy Tudor.  So who was after her? Was it the dead man who we discover later had links to other people present? Or could it have been the brother and sister of a distant first cousin who were staying with Letitia,  Julia and Patrick played with assurance by Tori Wakeman and Alex Parkinson.

Then there was the widowed single mum Philippa, unrelated but taken in out of sympathy, played by the reliable Marika Farr.

Perhaps it was Mrs Swetterham, who looked a bit foreign, and bustled about nosily in the hands of Lynn Ravenhill, or her layabout son Edward , played with a shiftiness by Dan Taylor, who had the hots for Philippa. And while we are on foreign, what about Mitzi the, argumentative, bolshie Hungarian (perhaps) maid who admitted to lying all the time, played by the excellent Louise Fulwell.

We even suspected Bunny, an old friend who had fallen on hard times so had been taken in by Letitia. Bunny, played beautifully by Sue Hunt, was halfway through the door to dementia – but could that have all been an act?

While we were pondering a second death ended one theory but reinforced another as the plot thickens and we discover that probably the only person who is who they say they are is the lady selling programmes in the foyer.

There are some clever scene changes, using Mitzi and Bunny as stage hands to plump up cushions and tidy the set, and an excellent set from the construction team which looks very solid and very 1930s with brown wood-grained doors and panelling and dark cream walls.

The set was also well lit by Murray Bridges and John Batchelor all helping to create a thoroughly entertaining evening with Craddock and Miss Marple keeping us in suspense until the very last page of script. To 02-02-13

Roger Clarke 

The Rose Box Office is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9.30am – 3.00pm, Saturday 9.30am – 1.30pm, telephone number 01562 743745. Online booking at

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