By Jerome Studdy
Staging a piece of theatre written by Agatha Christie spans a very interesting chasm. On one side, the production is always going to be enjoyable; Christie's scripts are playful, enjoyable, and intelligent, such that it's hard to get it wrong. But it takes a lot of effort, control of tension, thorough rehearsal, understanding of context, and manipulation of pace and tone to truly make it magical. Unfortunately, opening night of Towards Zero at the Genesian Theatre hasn't quite made that leap; though still being an enjoyable experience.
Towards Zero takes place in the sitting room of Gulls Point. The entirety of the mystery is unraveled in this same space, with clues and catches passed about between characters and overheard conversations. It's charming, convoluted, and crafted in that undeniable Christie style. By and large, the cast and crew have done an amiable job of bringing the show to life. The characters had depth, the pieces of evidence were presented to the audience with care, and all involved knew their place in the world.
Standout amongst the cast was the portrayal of Audrey Strange by Molly Haddon. Haddon commanded the stage well, had a beautiful tone and clarity, excellent control of accent, and crafted an Audrey that was appropriately ambiguous yet charming. Equally as magical on stage was Paul Barbary as Matthew Treves. Barbary was magnetic and engaging, and never failed to understand how his lines were connected to the overall plot. However, there was such a steep jump between the animation of Barbary's lines, and the still silence when other characters were speaking, that it occasionally became distracting and verged on melodrama. Ros Bilbe as Lady Tresilian was a charming casting choice, as she moved and spoke with elegance befitting her role. It was a shame that some of this elegance toppled upon a few fumbled lines.
The rest of the cast were all comfortable in their roles and played the show well. A distinct fluidity in the approach to accent occasionally threatened to ruin the charm of the piece as actors appeared to drop in and out of character. It's also incredibly important to create a unity not only of voice and emotion, but also of movement across a cast. Some characters were played with an almost too modern physicality that detracted from the rigidity of the context.
It's incredibly difficult to put on a show like this, particularly in the wake of such pieces as The Play That Goes Wrong. There are uncanny similarities between the subject matter of the two works, and any fumbled lines, prop or set errors, or questionable acting choices immediately threaten towards comedy. Pleasingly though, the cast were able to regain focus and carry on in spite of any opening night hiccups.
All in all, it was still a very lovely evening spent at the theatre. The Genesian is a gorgeous venue, incredibly well suited to a piece such as this, and it's clear that there is warmth, community, and heart behind this show. It's not the perfect production, but it's definitely a great show for anyone who loves a good whodunnit. Take some friends and place your bets during internal on who committed the crime.
Image Credit: Craig O'Regan
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.