Debut Agatha Christie whodunit

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Hunston-based director Phil Amor adds a whodunit to his bow with his debut Agatha Christie for the Arundel Players.

A Murder Is Announced opens on Monday, January 16 and runs until January 21 at The Priory Playhouse, Arundel at 7.45pm. Tickets are £10 (members £8) on 07523 417926.

“I have never done a Christie before. I have never done a whodunit before. Any aspiring director should do a whodunit!

“I have to say that I was not an Agatha Christie fan before but I have become one now because of all the technicalities that are involved. I appreciate we are working on an adaptation, but technically they are very difficult to do.”

Appropriately, Phil has done his own bit of sleuthing in deciding to set the piece in 1957 - all because of one particular line when someone announces ‘It’s absolutely bloomin’ marvellous’: “The only place that that comment can have come from is My Fair Lady.”

The show had its Broadway release in 1956 and came to England in 1958. In between times, the soundtrack would have been available over here.

As for the Christie itself, as Phil says, it is the twists and the turns and all the red herrings which make for both the difficulty and the fun: “The trick is to make sure that the audience don’t guess too soon,” says Phil, who admits he will have failed if everyone works it out by the interval.

There’s a balancing act to be done. It’s perfectly fair to drop in some red herrings, but Phil is stressing to his cast that they mustn’t compensate by over-emphasising the real clues.

The murder announcement of the title is in the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette, stating the time and place of a murder to occur in Miss Blackstock’s house, Little Paddocks.

However, the victim is not one of the several occupants, temporary or permanent, but an unexpected and unknown visitor.

“What follows is a classic Christie puzzle of mixed motives, concealed identities, a second death, a determined Inspector Craddock grimly following the twists and turns, with Miss Marple on hand to provide the final solution – at some risk to herself – in a dramatic confrontation scene just before the final curtain.”

Phil is delighted to have secured Margaret Mason, Arundel Players’ chairman, as his Miss Marple: “Miss Marple has got to be mild-mannered, fairly quiet, fairly demure, but very thoughtful. She has got to have this little twinkle in her eye, this little look that hopefully the audience will pick up on. And Margaret is very good at doing that!”