Agatha Christie spoof delights Littlehampton audiences - review

Agatha Crusty cast photo by Rosey Purchase
Agatha Crusty cast photo by Rosey Purchase

REVIEW BY Simon Cross

Agatha Crusty – Stage-Door Theatre Company, Windmill Theatre, 10th to 13th April

“Things aren’t always as they seem,” so says Agatha Crusty, pronounced Croosty, in this week’s Stage-Door Theatre Company's production of “Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders.” On the surface a simple pastiche of Agatha Christie this is, in fact, a light parody of the form with a liberal smattering of inoffensive jokes, puns and malapropisms.

Written by Derek Webb, as one of a series of Agatha Crusty plays, the Village Hall Murders finds Agatha visiting her sister-in-law in the rural village of Chortlebury. Once there, Agatha finds herself in the middle of a spree of murders being investigated by the hapless Inspector Twigg. Members of the Village Hall committee are being bumped off with surprisingly speed and regularity. Is this because someone is after the treasure believed buried under the Village Hall or for some other reason?

Wednesday evening’s opening night audience enjoyed watching this piece directed wisely by Micki Darbyshire. The cast of nine (plus one dead body) played with some gusto and tongues firmly planted in their cheeks, just as the piece requires.

In any review, it’s almost impossible to mention every single player, but there will always be some players who stand above the others. In this production these were Veryan Jennings as slightly mousey, slightly domineering Eleanor, impossibly in love with the Revd. Toby Bishop, played with equal verve by Richard Tyrrell. Ben Sunderland, with his resemblance to David Cameron, did excellent work bringing an unlikely pair of identical twins to life. And Anne Anderson was unrecognisable as the same actor swapping between the roles of a grieving cleaner and nude model.

Finally, Maureen Ayres rightly led from the front, bringing an unassuming ease and warmth to the title role, especially in the typical denouement scene at the end when, with all remaining characters gathered, Agatha teases Inspector Twigg into a host of assumptions before leading him to the killer.

All in all, a gentle and enjoyable evening.

Simon Cross