On Tuesday 4th April Cardiff’s New Theatre become a hub for wannabe sleuths as it welcomed the classic Murder Mystery play A Judgement In Stone by the prolific writer Ruth Rendell. Ruth Rendell is very highly regarded among Murder Mystery fans all over the world and much like Agatha Christie she has continued to grow in popularity even after her passing.
Ruth Rendell is very well known for writing very differently to other crime writers due to her focus being more on the psychological reasoning and effect with a murder opposed to looking in depth at the characters and their motives. This was shown largely in the play as the motive and act of the murder chilled me to the core!
Without giving away too much about the story the play opens with a crime scene set in the divine country mansion of the Coverdale family comprising of the murders of a father, mother, son and daughter. As the story unfolds before the audience on stage as does one of Rendell’s signature writing techniques with the inclusion of the ‘Class divide’. At the time of setting and writing the play the ‘class divide’ between the working class and upper class was at it’s biggest. With other shows made at the time such as Blood Brothers by Willy Russell also showing this divide. As the show progresses although the plot is a Murder Mystery one cannot help but pick up on the class references in the show.
Ruth Rendell creates exquisite characters who all have a different story to tell (and a different motive to kill). The first characters the audience encounter are the two central characters of the play Detective Superintendent Vetch (played by Andrew Lancel) and Sergeant Challoner (played by Ben Nealon). Both men are your typical ‘Coppers’. It is at this time the audience meet Eunice Parchman played by Sophie Ward who is the house keeper.
Following on from this the play very cleverly follows a Non-linear narrative and jumps from the present to the past. The audience meet the family and their individual personalities start to show. The family as shown in the picture below on the settee are Melinda Coverdale, George Coverdale, Jacqueline Coverdale and Giles Mont.
We also meet three other characters also shown in the picture Eva Baalham, Joan Smith and Roger Meadows who is played by BLUE star Antony Costa.
I simply must also mention the wonderful set designed for the show as it was amazing. It was very reminiscent to that of The Mouse Trap and had a wonderful sense of grandeur to it, really helping to set the scene for the audience. I highly recommend you watch this play especially if you are a Murder Mystery fan but WILL YOU SOLVE THE CASE?
When looking at Murder Mystery stories it is extremely rare to find someone as talented and well-loved as Agatha Christie. On the 25th November 1952 Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, opened in the West End and has been running ever since, meaning the play is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. To celebrate this momentous occasion the production company have taken the show on tour around the UK allowing a whole new audience to watch and enjoy.
Being an avid fan of Dame Agatha Christie I was very keen to watch this play as I wanted to see how similar the play would be to some of her most well-known work such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I must say that the play certainly does not disappoint and holds all of the key Agatha Christie characteristics to make it recognisable and familiar. Everything about ‘The Mousetrap’ seems very familiar as though we’ve read the story before. The play is set in a country house with oak-panelled walls with hidden back stairs and linking passages. It is the sort of house someone can leave the room by one door and reappear through another so you can never be too sure of where every character is. A snow blizzard takes hold and all of the roads soon become blocked to add to their problems the telephone is not working and on the radio there is a story about a murderer on the loose. The house is full of the usual range of Cluedo style characters that have never met each other before. Is there a chance that one of these people could be the murder? All of the characters have their own secrets and as you would expect from an Agatha Christie mystery, the story is full of twists and red herrings.
Three of the play’s characters Sgt Trotter, Mr Paravicini and Miss Casewell.
The characters are extremely well-defined and all very different and eccentric in their own ways. The cast of the play work really well together. Anna Andresen and Nick Barclay create a fitting partnership for Mollie and Giles Ralston showing well their nerves about their first attempt at running a Guest House. Sarah Whitlock portrays brilliantly the straight-talking, no-nonsense Mrs Boyle. Whom I thought had similar characteristics to that of Miss Marple as portrayed by Dame Margaret Rutherford. Amy Downham gives us a very secretive and mysterious Miss Casewell leaving the audience with many questions as to whom she could be. Gregory Cox is wonderful as Mr Paravicini and somehow seems to have created the character similar to that of Hercule Poirot. Oliver Gully is fantastically mad as Christopher Wren positively bursting with energy. Tony Boncza is ever so the retired Army type as Major Metcalf and Alan Magor played the part of Police Sergeant Trotter, a very good portrayal of a typical Agatha Christie detective putting all of the clues together and drawing all the attention of the audience.
Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple two characters created by Agatha Christie.
I simply must mention the divine set that was created for the play which was made in such a way that it felt homely and inviting for the audience. The use of lamps on stage bought a sense of comfort for the audience and also an element of reality. The large wooden panels with the period furniture gave the audience a wonderful setting for the story to play out.
The UK tour trailer for ‘The Mousetrap’.
I highly urge everyone to see ‘The Mousetrap’ whether you are an Agatha Christie fan or not. It is a wonderful ‘who done it’ mystery that is guaranteed to get you trying to solve the case. With endless twists and turns the audience are kept on the edge of their seats. But you must remember that EVERYONE is a suspect!