There was anything but silence in court among the school party attending Tuesday night's performance of Agatha Christie's own stage version of her 1933 short story. Given that the teenage crowd were possibly encountering Christie's merciless take on murder mystery thrillers for the first time, and that a seemingly staid old staple had just double-bluffed its way to a shock ending that no-one with prior knowledge of the story could possibly have predicted, such a hubbub came with very good reason.
Revived here for an expanded version of Dundee Rep's ensemble company by director Kenny Miller, Christie's yarn opens in the battleship grey office of Sir Wilfred Robarts. Robarts is charged with defending young Leonard Vole, a feckless charmer accused of murdering an older woman for her fortune. Possessed with a little boy lost demeanour and Irene Macdougall's Teutonic ice-maiden Romaine for a wife, Ewan Donald's Leonard has Sir Wilfred back him to the hilt. This task is made easier by the latter's hostility towards women, with only his secretary Greta, played by Emily Winter with a voluminous port wine dyed bubble perm, considered trust-worthy.
With the bulk of the play made up of the trial itself, the crisp formality of proceedings and heightened playing style almost has you believe you're watching it in black and white. The community cast perched like maids in a row as the jury at the back of Miller's opened-out set adds to the effect in what appears to be an open and shut case. The complex dissection of human weakness, emotional blackmail and an ingrained misogyny that blights both individuals and institutions, however, makes guilty parties of us all.
The Herald, March 3rd 2016