There can't be many Agatha Christie pot-boilers that feature pre-show music by the Beatles. Yet this late period whodunnit revived here by director Joe Harmston's Official Agatha Christie Company is as groovy as when Hammer revived Dracula in swinging London. Blessed with a holy trinity of female leads, it's hard not to warm to such unabashed hokum.
First performed in 1960 but re-set here to1968, Christie's adaptation of her novel, Five Little Pigs, follows the tenacious travails of Carla Le Marchant, the twenty-something daughter of Caroline Crale. Caroline died in prison after being convicted twenty years before of the murder of her artist and serial adulterer husband, Amyas. Carla breezes from lawyer's office to drawing room and fancy restaurant looking for clues, quizzing her father's mistress, the family maid, her mother's sister and two very different brothers both in love with her mother. Once gathered in the family pile, all involved role-play the past to unravel a more ambiguous past.
This makes it necessary for the cast to play their younger selves, while Sophie Ward carries things as both mother and daughter. Where as Carla she sports a Judy Geeson bob and a Mondrian-patterned mini-dress, as Caroline she's a more demure post-war English rose. As Amyas' one-time muse, Elsa, Lysette Anthony is a drop-dead little madam on the make, while Liza Goddard's Miss Williams remains impeccably ageless.
With each scene punctuated by what sounds like a jazzy mash-up of Roy Orbison's Pretty Woman and Dave Brubeck's Unsquare Dance, this is as hip as Christie gets. While hardly barricade-storming, Carla's final lead-taking embrace with her lawyer sidekick nevertheless points to a bright feminist future.
The Herald, February 14th 2013