The Mirror Crack’d ★★★★★

The Mirror Crack’d sees Rachel Wagstaff’s witty adaptation of the Agatha Christie original deliver thrills, literal spills and a marvellous Marple!

The role of Miss Marple must be a daunting one in some ways. We all have our own idea of what a good Marple should be. 
Joan Hickson famously played the spinster sleuth in the late ’80s and early ’90s in the BBC adaptation of the Agatha Christie heroine. Seemingly a rather dithery old lady, her Marple was fiercely intelligent, her pale blue eyes fixing a steely gaze on the truth of the case. Margaret Rutherford played Marple as a jaunty force of nature; a playful, bossy and wildly eccentric across four less-than-faithful but hugely popular movies in the 1960s. Then there was a certain Angela Lansbury, who before becoming Queen of TV detectives as Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, played Miss Marple on film just once. In the 1980 version of The Mirror Crack’d!
So there are some big shoes to fill by Susie Blake, known and loved from her role as the starchy continuity announcer on Victoria Wood’s classic As Seen on TV. And Blake more than holds her own as Agatha’s famed amateur sleuth.
All images by Ali Wright

The Mirror Crack’d sees Miss Marple convalescing at her home in St Mary Mead having injured her ankle – conveniently rendering her safely away from the action. She discovers from quizzing her domestic Cherry and (Chief) Inspector Craddock that a local woman seemingly of little importance, Heather Leigh, has been murdered at a cocktail party in the grand house where Hollywood movie star Marina Gregg has  recently moved in.

When it transpires that Heather had taken the glass meant for Marina, suspicions arise that the movie star was in fact the intended victim of the poisoned daiquiri!

A Christie done badly follows the mechanics of the plot and moves the characters around like chess pieces. Clever but superficial. One of the delights of Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation is while she remains faithful to the spirit of the original, she actively mines the emotional pockets of the story to great effect. 

Miss Marple limited by her ankle injury feels the walls closing in around her. As she later explains, as she grew older, her options narrowed until she was facing a proverbial brick wall. Patronised by society, she chafes against the assumptions made against her – though she is not beyond using those prejudices to her own advantage to get information out of suspects.
From the confines of her armchair, she quizzes friends and suspects alike, building up a jigsaw of the different perspectives given to her. The Mirror Crack’d deploys a theatrical device of freezing the scene while the characters reconstruct a flashback based on whoever’s testimony is being given at the time. Aside from keeping the momentum going and avoiding endless scene changes, it has the effect of keeping Mrs Marple at the centre of the story conducting events rather than being sidelined. 
Wagstaff’s script manages to be witty and playful without holding up the twists and turns befitting a cracking whodunnit. Likewise Adrian Linford‘s rotating structure – one side a glass hallway, the other a wall of mirror panels – allows for a speedy flow between scenes and locations. Ingeniously these mirror panels reflect and magnify the suspects, suggesting the growing number of people under suspicion. 

Director Philip Franks has well drilled the cast, superbly choreographing key scenes from different angles to reflect each suspect’s viewpoint.

Joe McFadden is the dashing husband, seemingly to devoted to his wife. While somewhat underused, it is nice to see him use his Strictly skills in a dream-sequence dance at the top of the show. Sophie Ward gives a great Marina Gregg, the fading and troubled Hollywood star. Faxing in a superficial charm to her fans, behind closed doors is a darker proposition. Mercurially switching between vulnerability and manipulative, Ward draws the eye as a Hollywood star should.

Veronica Roberts does an entertaining turn as the unstoppable Dolly Bantry, Miss Marple’s robust and redoubtable village friend, while Oliver Boot playing (Chief) Inspector Craddock treads a well-balanced line between fondness and irascibility for the his “aunt Jane” who helped raise him when his mother died.

Best of all, Susie Blake is a magnificent Marple. She nails Marple’s dizzying mental acuity, a harsh contrast to her enforced physical frailty. Underlying the amateur sleuth’s psychological prowess, she denies being smart, demurring that she just knows people. There is a poignant thread throughout in Jane Marple’s need to matter. 
And matter she does. The plot is fiendish – dare we say, better than The Mousetrap. You know when a stage Christie works when the foyer and bars are a-buzz at the interval with wild speculation and (mostly wrong) guesses whodunnit! 

There was a publishing tradition where Dame Agatha’s latest novel became “a Christie for Christmas”. Original Theatre Company’s The Mirror Crack’d is not just for Christmas – it continues way into 2023 and if you are a Christie fan, this top-notch adaptation with a fabulous Marple is a must-see!

There’s no mystery whether The Recs enjoyed The Mirror Crack’d – a ★★★★★ (5-star) delight

The Mirror Crack'd Tour

This excellent murder-mystery will play:

Southend Palace Theatre: 28 November - 3 December 2022

Cambridge Arts Theatre: 31 January - 4 February 2023

Wycombe Swan: 7 - 11 February 2023

Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham: 14 - 18 February 2023

Rose Theatre, Kingston: 21 - 25 February 2023

His Majesty's Aberdeen: 28 February - 4 March 2023

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