Bath-based New Old Friends have expanded its spoof thriller targets this year to include Noel Coward and the early Ealing comedies, as well as Agatha Christie.
The queen of detective stories remains at the heart of their madcap punning, though, with Kirsty Cox stepping into the formidable shoes of Hercule Poirot’s fussy female counterpart Artemis Arinae, whose little grey cells are increasingly exercised as the Crimes on the Nile body count rises.
There is one more actor than in last year’s inventive Crimes Under the Sun, but the quartet still have to move at lightening speed to cover a cast of suspects played by the likes of Bette Davis, David Niven, Maggie Smith and Mia Farrow in the 1978 film Death on the Nile, with appropriately enough, Peter Ustinov as Poirot.
Cox, who handles the awesome Belgian detective’s accent with some panache, is essential in anchoring the narrative, for director James Farrell’s razzmatazz approach is at times in danger of overwhelming the comedy. It does allow for the other three players – Fergus Leathem, along with company founders Heather Westwell and Feargus Woods Dunlop – to flit between the other 11 characters with considerable dexterity, especially in the mandatory whodunit final scene. They even play assorted mounts in the camel race.
Highlight of Connie Watson’s promenade deck setting is the ship’s clock, which runs impressively backward throughout a first act played entirely in reverse.