Global Productions present
A murder mystery by Agatha Christie
When Dr John Cristow is found murdered at the home of Sir Henry and Lucy Angkatell, suspicion falls on a number of the guests including the good doctor’s wife, his mistress and his ex-mistress. When Inspector Colquhoun and Sergeant Penny arrive on the scene, they discover that nearly everyone had a motive and the opportunity to kill Cristow, but can they catch the killer before he or she strikes again?
The Hollow is a classic whodunit from the pen of the world’s greatest and most famous crime writer. In a plot that twists and turns more than an assassin’s knife, and with dialogue more watertight than a murderer’s alibi, The Hollow will keep you guessing until the final curtain.
The Hollow by Agatha Christie is brought to the Playhouse by the award-winning Global Productions, fresh from their last hit Noises Off by Michael Frayn, which launched the Playhouse autumn season in 2010.
The Hollow - Global Productions, Harlow Playhouse
She was the mistress of suspense, an author whose intricately-woven tales of murder and mystery sold almost as many copies as the Bible. But Agatha Christie was no great playwright.
Yes, her 80-odd detective novels made her the best-selling author of all time and, yes, it's difficult to switch on the TV without seeing David Suchet as Belgian super-sleuth Hercule Poirot.
But with the notable exception of The Mousetrap, Christie's plays have fared less well over time.
Take The Hollow for example. Adapted for the stage in 1951 from the 1946 novel of the same name, Christie decided to drop Poirot from the tale – her dislike for the rotund detective is well-documented – and split the entertaining country house mystery into three lengthy acts.
But while complex characterisation and intricate back stories work well on the page, the need to cram this veritable avalanche of information into the opening hour or so of a play does not make for particularly thrilling viewing.
Although director Michael Philips wisely opted to drop the second intermission for Global's trimmed-down production, the play's claustrophobic setting and languorous pace – awkwardly at odds with it's hyper-emotional characters – ultimately smothered much of the suspense.
The point where the story should have really taken off – the introduction of Inspector Colquhoun and sidekick Sergeant Penny – fell disappointingly flat, with Richard Holliss's valiant attempts to flesh out the one-dimensional detective's slight character not enough to escape the sizeable shadow of Poirot that loomed large over the whole production.
To their credit, the talented cast did their best to make up for the play's shortcomings, most notably Christine Holliss, who had the audience in stitches with a giddy portrayal of delightfully dotty, gin-soaked aristocrat Lady Lucy Angkatell, and the ever-reliable Chris Millington as her equally bonkers husband, Sir Henry.
Mark Simons and Jennifer Dorian played out the romantic sub-plot with aplomb as young lovers Edward and Midge, while Stephen Balchin and Amanda Powell also impressed as odious murder victim Dr John Cristow and his put-upon wife Gerda.
But following the breathless brilliance of Global's masterful production of fast-paced farce Noises Off at the Playhouse last year, The Hollow was always going to struggle to live up to expectations.
The group's award-winning adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter at the theatre next month should see them back at their best.