Ian C Douglas went to see Agatha Christie’s Love From A Stranger at the Theatre Royal…
Rain? Check. Cloudy skies? Check. It must British summertime. And if it’s British summertime, it must be the Colin McIntyre season at the Theatre Royal. At least one reason to shout out hurrah as we swim our way through another August.
And this year the season kicks off with Love From a Stranger: Frank Vosper’s 1936 play based on Philomel Cottage, a 1924 short story by Agatha Christie. Of course, it’s the latter’s name that’s the crowd pleaser. And sure enough, this play is set in Christie-Land, that mythical Albion where the calendar is stuck in the 1920s, the Empire never ends and toffs throw house parties with murder on the menu.
Cecily Harrington (Lara Lemon) is about to get married. But she’s having doubts. Is she ready to settle down? Is her fiancé Nigel Lawrence (Pavan Maru) a tad…well…dull? A handsome stranger views Cecily’s soon-to-be vacant apartment and it’s love at first sight. Five minutes of flirting and the two of them are off for lunch. All caution thrown to the wind, etcetera. Soon Cecily is abandoning safe but stolid Nigel for daring, dashing Bruce Lovell (David Osmond). A whirlwind affair follows. But can this Bruce be trusted? And what about the clues the cast keep dropping of a notorious wife-murderer who’s on the loose?
Five minutes of flirting and the two of them are off for lunch
Act Two, the much longer half, moves to a remote country estate in the north of England where Bruce and Cecily have sequestered themselves. Cue Agatha Christie’s stock-in-trade, the comical servants. We have two here in the shape of Hodgson (Sarah Wynne Kordas) and newly-recruited maid Ethel (Juliette Strobel). The latter’s overdone curtsies provide a much-needed laugh amid mounting tensions.
The warning signs pile up. Could Cecily be in peril from her mysterious young husband? Or is it another of Christie’s famed red herrings? If any author could lead us up the garden path, it was she! Who’s burying bottles of peroxide in the grounds? What’s going on in the cellar? And will nice Nigel win his beau back again?
This is not so much a murder mystery as a thriller, complete with last minutes twists.
The sets do a good job of evoking the 1920s with their furniture, curtains, wallpaper. The audience warmed to every actor and a special shout out must go to Susan Earnshaw as Aunt Mavis, who was such fun every time she walked on stage.
Nothing like a juicy murder to take our minds of the awful weather. And with competitively priced seats, this may be just the crime for you. Umbrellas optional.
Lover From a Stranger plays at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday August 1st to Saturday August 5th 2023.
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?