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The Hollow

by on 21 January 2023

“People Do Dreadful  Things”

The Hollow

by Agatha Christie

Richmond Shakespeare Society at the Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham until 28th January  

Review by Louis Mazzini  

There’s no gainsaying Agatha Christie, the Queen of crime fiction and – incredible as it may seem – Britain’s most popular woman playwright, the first to have three plays running simultaneously in the West End.  Indeed, two of Christie’s plays are on in central London today, and for decades her work has been a staple for community theatre companies.  It is therefore surprising to find that The Hollow is the first time in its ninety year history that Richmond Shakespeare Society has “done a Christie”, in this case her own adaptation of her 1946 Hercule Poirot novel of the same name. 

Like most of her plays, The Hollow is set in what one critic described as “Agatha Christie time”.  Rodney Figaro’s magnificent set, complemented by the music and some of the costumes, nicely evokes the 1930s ambience with which Christie is generally associated, but other touches suggest the 1950s – the play was first produced professionally in 1951 – despite the presence of servants.

The Hollow takes place in the eponymous home of Lord and Lady Angketell.  The couple are played by Geraint Thompson and a sparkling Frances Billington, who knows exactly what kind of play she is in and exactly how to play her character, an eccentric aristo with a flair for forgetfulness and a shrewd eye for the truth.  Christie’s servants are usually entertaining and the Angkatells’ are no exception.  James Phillips is suitably mordant as the butler and Asha Gill delightful as a star-struck maid; both actors have excellent comic timing.  Milly Newman plays the Angkatells’ daughter Henrietta, a sculptress whose current work-in-progress is somewhere offstage left where it is admired from time to time by members of the cast, all of whom seem to have a different idea of its height and position. 

There are also several houseguests: John Cristow, a self-centred doctor played with the right amount of disdain by Hugh Cox, and Gerda, and Cristow’s subjugated wife, an excellent Katie Abbott.  Edie Moles is the Monroesque Midge – “half an Angkatell” – a woman-child whom no one takes seriously, least of all the man she adores, Edward Angkatell, portrayed by a suave Luke Daxon.  A good whodunnit also needs an unexpected guest and in The Hollow this is provided by Anna Piggott, channelling Lady Gaga as a vivacious Veronica Craye, a vampy actress whose entrances – and jewellery – light up the stage.  Surprise, surprise … … there is a murder, which leads to the arrival of Inspector Colquhoun and Sergeant Penny, played at just about the right speed by Mark Saunders and Graham Schafer. 

Originally billed as a comedy thriller, The Hollow is at times very funny and though some of the appreciative audience laughter certainly wouldn’t have been expected by Christie, it would for the most part by the director, Derek Stringer, who has done a very good job in animating this classic of the 1950s.  With a whodunnit the “thing” that matters most is the plot and the performances of the victim and murderer.  It would be wrong to identify them but, despite Christie’s somewhat ponderous script, the actors concerned are thoroughly convincing, especially the killer in the final scene when … … but that would be telling.

Louis Mazzini, January 2023

Photography by Jessica Warrior

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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