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By Agatha Christie
Sir Henry Angkatell - Michael J Smith
Directed by David Pile
Designed by Colin Pile
The art deco atmosphere of the Tivoli lends a great atmosphere to a first-class production of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery. The set faithfully represents the garden room of a 1950s country house while the butler – Gudgeon, played by Simon Jackson – and the maid – Doris, played by Bethany Barfoot – characterise well the servants of such an establishment.
Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell have invited guests for the weekend. As the guests arrive, the cast gels and anticipation of what is to take place grows amongst the audience. Michael J Smith is wonderfully type-cast as Sir Henry, and his delightfully ‘batty’ wife is very well portrayed by Judy Garrett. A key role is played by Kristy Dixon as Henrietta Angkatell, a sculptress, who displays a cool suppressed sexiness throughout the production. She is the mistress of John Cristow – a London-based consultant, played by Paul Dodman, who powerfully represents his character.
John Cristow is clearly a ladies’ man but his aggressive conversation with his wife, Gerda, after their arrival belies the charm which he must possess. Gerda is superbly acted by Ann McColgan-Clark, who to begin with displays no awareness of her husband’s infidelity but is the epitome of the ‘dizzy’ wife. There are two other guests: Midge Harvey, a distant relation of the Angketells, and yet another member of the family, Edward, with whom Midge is very much in love. Midge is played by Kimberley Scott, who well portrays her character’s wish to be independent of the family, while Edward is a quiet man of no particular achievement who loves Henrietta. His anguish is clear in the characterisation achieved by Colin Pile. Jan Bursby plays a film star, Veronica Craye, with the great panache typical of such a character; she has moved to a cottage in the grounds of the country house and makes a surprise appearance after all of the guests have gathered. Sir Henry collects revolvers and pistols and many of the guests practise on the garden range. You can imagine what that leads to.
Act 3 is, needless to say, dominated by Inspector Colquhoun and Detective Sergeant Penny, who are typical of Agatha Christie’s policeman characters and very well portrayed by Richard Neal and Tony Parkinson. The tension mounts as the audience is treated to many interviews between the policemen and members of the household. Gudgeon’s expressions during his crucial exchange with the Inspector are brilliantly done, while the scene between Henrietta and the Inspector is riveting. Eventually, the murderer is revealed and the final scenes, particularly those involving Henrietta and Gerda, are compelling.
2015 is the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth. I judge that she would have been most impressed by this production of one of her classic plays, expertly directed by David Pile.
Philip Atlay, Scene One
Clearly the choice of play was a great one in this the 125th anniversary year of the birth of Agatha Christie as on the first night (Thursday) the theatre was packed.
For an am-dram group to attract such a good audience is evidence of the esteem with which this group is held. Their open air production of Pride and Prejudice in the summer was equally well supported.
From the minute you sit down you are transported back to the 1950's with an impressive stage set accompanied by pop music from the era.
It is a gathering of the Angkatell family and within a few minutes, you realise that tensions are going to provide for a rocky weekend.
And that someone won't make it to the interval - but I'm not telling you who.
Sir Henry Angkatell (Michael J Smith) is the kindly elderly gentleman who makes excuses for his wife who spends a lot of her time away with the fairies - in a good way. Judy Garrett puts so much life and humour into the part of Lady Angkatell.
Paul Dodman is the instantly dislikeable philandering doctor John Cristow, who is married to the highly nervous, people-pleaser Gerda. This is a quite superb performance by Ann McColgan-Clark who only moved to Dorset a couple of years ago. She is a real talent and an actress to look out for in the future.
Simon Jackson played the butler Gudgeon in WDP's production 12 years ago, and he made such a good job of it that is reprising the role this week.
Colin Pile encapsulates the character of the quiet, unassuming and rather boring Edward with Kristy Dixon getting under the skin of Henrietta, a young woman whose life isn't quite going to plan. Kimberley Scott is equally skilled in her role as Sir Henry's niece Midge.
Bethany Barfoot clearly has fun playing the maid Doris and as does Jan Bursby as the vamping film star Veronica.
The police officers are always an important part of any Agatha Christie play with those in The Hollow filling their roles with aplomb. Richard Neal is the archetypal Inspector and Tony Parkinson is his sidekick DS.
Director David Pile should be feeling really pleased with himself today. If you want a great evening - try to get a ticket, it runs until Saturday.
Marilyn Barber, Stour and Avon Magazine
Photographs: Richard Neal and Sam Moulton
Wimborne Drama Productions