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Review: Let’s Kill Agatha Christie at the

Review by Kate Gaul

Sitting quietly between 2 large urban buildings sits the tiny stone Genesian Theatre – churchy windows, black wooden door and a golden sign announcing its presence.  As reported by Lenny Ann Low in the SMH this theatre is relocating to Rozelle after 70 continual years of community theatre. A multi-million-dollar development has finally squeezed then out of this 125 seat Victorian church, names after St Genesius the patron saint of actors. 

Having never been to this theatre before and knowing that I may not have too many chances left I took a punt on the intriguingly titled “Lets Kill Agatha Christie”. But it’s not just the production that deserves a review. The evening I attended it was blowing a tempest in Sydney and the tiny foyer became a delightful crush bar as locals congregated to chat, buy drinks and generally keep out of the rain.  The seating is on two levels and the stairs take audiences straight into the upper level (no landing or foyer) so the downstairs bar is where it all happens pre-show and at interval.  Volunteers with the requisite RSA pour drinks and negotiate with the drunk mums over the credit card machine. Another, loudly proclaiming that she cannot serve alcohol, makes cups of instant coffee and tea-bag tea, selling chocolates and programs along the way. The walls are adorned with photos of local celebs who have graced the stage of the Genesian as well as printouts of plans for the new – slightly larger – theatre in Rozelle.

Audience members are friendly, and I engage with one such gentleman who is only too happy to give me much of the history and theatre gossip.  The theatre roof is leaking and there is a scrabble to find everyone seats.  A couple of appropriately painted buckets onstage catch some drips there. Anything by Agatha Christie will sell out I am told. This is a slight variation on Genesian Theatre’s Agatha Christie repertoire; Christie is in the title, but she is not the author, nor is she really in the story. It’s all part of the entertaining, plot of “Let’s Kill Agatha Christie”.  The curtain – yes there is a beautiful crimson curtain with gold trim – parts on a familiar box set - the grey room. Director and set designer Gregory George, has everything in this room, including the flowers and the fireplace, coloured grey. We are told that other rooms in the house are all painted different colours. ”Let’s Kill Agatha Christie” was written by Anthony Hinds after he retired from making horror movies and published in 1990. It’s all very English and serves as a backdrop to the colourful characters who are invited to the mansion.  But why?

Prudence Sykes (Caitlyn Clancy) is a murder-mystery author, whose self-funded 27 (or is it 28?) novels have been modestly received by the public and critics. Sir Frederick Belting (Theo Hatzistergos) is a loud, self-made millionaire who drives a Rolls Royce. Marjory Field (Natalie Reid) successfully writes poetry which is syndicated in several newspapers. John Hartley-Miles (Bryan Smith) is a popular actor, hopelessly vain and very stupid. These three and Prudence are all ambitious rivals from their youth, and they set a four-way challenge to see who would truly become successful. Prudence, it seems, has failed. When Sir Frederick, Marjory, and John find a copy of Prudence’s latest manuscript, rather suspiciously placed in plain sight, they discover the reason she has invited them all. Three characters in the novel are thinly disguised versions of Frederick, Marjory, and John, and each is given a description that gives away a very real, unsavoury truth about them. To give away any more of the story would involve unwanted spoilers.  Ah, yes and the butler, Tombs (Peter J Donnelly) and a flappy house maid Gladys (Andrea Blight) Denise Kitching (Montgomery) as Angela Teal, Prudence’s PA, Brendan Layton as Inspector Murray and Harry Lewis as PC Crockett complete the cast.

It's a rollicking evening. The gag involving the loose top step never really works (you had to be there). The production possibly does not warrant an interval and have served, in its entirety, as one half of a program of two crime thrillers.  The “period-esque” costumes by Susan Carveth deserve attention, in particular the women’s frocks which all have an appropriate 1930s feel. Sadly, the drag costume is shoddy and undermines great work in other instances. One observation stays with me.  The characters are at one point enjoying a post dinner brandy.  Tombs the butler comes to tidy and pours all the unfinished drinks into the one glass (odd!) which he places on the drink trolley against one wall. The next day Sir Frederick goes to fix himself a drink and simply picks up the glass containing the combined slops and drinks that. I wondered if it was a clue of some kind but, no, it is just one of the joys of community theatre.

Image Supplied


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