The Secret Adversary
“Are you following the plot?” we are asked at the top of Act II. “No!” chorus a number of the audience in unison. It has to be admitted that this theatrical version of the first of Agatha Christie’s five Tommy and Tuppence convoluted page-turners leaves audience members frequently scratching their heads. But it’s all part of the fun. Sarah Punshon, as director and co-adaptor, gets the atmosphere spot-on, by channelling the story through a meta-theatrical device that observes it as a kind of music hall entertainment, complete with jaunty renditions of songs like Look for the Silver Lining (there are also amusingly anachronistic interpolations of Madonna’s Material Girl and Hey Big Spender).
Punshon’s co-adaptor is journalist Johann Hari, who left The Independent in 2011 following the exposure that he had plagiarised the work of others, but here he and Punshon do something highly impressive. They summon the spirit of Agatha Christie faithfully, yet maintain a playful air of drama and improbable jeopardy that Tommy (Garmon Rhys) and Tuppence (Emerald O’Hanrahan) get embroiled in after doing a bunk from a hotel restaurant without paying the bill, which involves a plot to bring about no less than a revolution.
Punshon and her inventive designer Tom Rogers produce some dizzyingly brilliant perspective changes on the tiny Watermill stage that are worthy of Robert Lepage. A clever, versatile cast – frequently doubling as musicians for the musical accompaniment – give it a propulsive momentum.
February 12-March 21, PN: February 18 (then tours until May 9)
We need your help…
When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.
The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.
We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.
Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.