Crimes Under the Sun review at Ustinov Studio, Bath – ‘a comic caper’
Iconic thriller writers Agatha Christie and John Buchan can scarcely have imagined that, many decades later, they would become the regular butt of theatrical comic capers.
In Crimes Under the Sun, it is the turn again of Christie, in a rather mixed bag of a 10th anniversary offering by Bath-based New Old Friends, staged in their home city.
Four hyperactive actors, led by company founder Feargus Woods Dunlop, work at breakneck speed around the familiar Christie plot of a remote island hotel, where a collection of highly suspicious guests are caught up in the murder of a philandering femme fatale.
In the film version of Murder Under the Sun, James Mason, Diana Rigg and Maggie Smith were among those fleshing out the suspects, but Dunlop only has three performers – Heather Westwell, Jill Myers and Jonny McClean – to play all 14 characters.
One of the most effective contrivances is to morph Hercule Poirot into lady detective Artemis Arinae, played by Myers with an authority that does full justice of those “little grey cells”.
There is hilarity also in McClean`s devilish brat of a youngster, straight out of an episode of The Munsters, Westwell`s frenetic juggling with three ploddish policemen at the same time, and the helter-skelter swapping of characters for the familiar`all-will-be-revealed climax, as Carl Davies` multi-purpose set becomes a drawing room.
Against this, director James Farrell could do with injecting more pace into an opening 20 minutes devoted to little more than lining up the suspects.