Above: (from left): Daren King, Brian Hinselwood, Mark Scott and Erik deWit. Below: Brad Oliver and Liz Best. Bottom Mark Scott and Alison Lees. Photos by Dan Ryan.
By Agatha Christie and Gerald Verner
Directed by Kurt A Lerps
Centenary Theatre Group
Chelmer Community Hall
Corner Queenscroft and Halsbury Streets
Season: November 10-December 1. Bookings: www.centenarytheatre.com.au or phone 0435 591 720. Running time: approx two hours 10 minutes with interval.
Agatha Christie’s whodunits are always fun and Centenary’s excellent production of Towards Zero is no exception. A well-balanced cast created believable
characters; they were very well dressed in period, the 1930s, and to be honest I can’t remembers a community theatre show that was better dressed. The set too was excellent with lots of period furniture (I loved the old “wireless” in particular). Visually the show was top rate.
With so many of popular Christie mysteries running on TV at the moment it was nice to see something new. Apparently the play was only recently released for amateur performances.
The plot is typical Christie; a group of relations and friends are put together in a large house and someone is murdered. Then everyone is a suspect with the villain eventually sorted by a clever but somewhat slow detective.
So the house party gathers at Gull’s Point, the seaside home of elderly widow Lady Caamilla Tressilian (Jill Brocklebank), who is being nursed by Mary Aldin (Debra Chalmers). The athletic Nevile Strange (Brad Oliver), former ward of Lady Tressilian's dead husband, has invited his new wife, Kay (Liz Best), and his former wife, Audrey (Meg Hinselwood), to visit at the same time. Staying in hotels nearby are Kay’s friend, Ted (Daren King); a long time family friend, Thomas Royde (Erik deWit), home after a long stretch working overseas and still faithfully waiting on the sidelines for Audrey; and Mr Treves (Brian Hinselwood), an old solicitor and long time friend of the Tressilians. Lady Tressilian is the murder victim, but not until the end of the first act.
The opening act is filled with exposition, explanations with some very contrived comings and goings and dubious exits. “I’m going for a walk”; “would you like to see the terrace?” “I’m going to bed” are few of the classics).
But here Agatha drops her red herrings and hints as to whodunit, so much so that at interval patrons were asked their opinions. I spread my bets with two characters one of whom was the killer but I picked the wrong motive.
So to Act Two and enter Superintendent Battle (Mark Scott) and Inspector Janet Leach (Alison Lees) and the riddles are explained.
Of course when we have all made up our minds again, in come the infamous Christie extra bits of information that blow all the theories sky high! There are also some amazing feats alleged or performed – off stage and in the dark of course – by various characters, which all added to the fun. ,
Mark Scott came into his role just two weeks before opening and he did a great job leading us through the maze in an act that was kept tight and intriguing all the way through. He managed the dry wit and the stolidity of battle while Alison Lees, in uniform and with a strong Yorkshire accent, played the Inspector fully for laughs.
Go along and play the whodunit game, and even if you guess wrong you will have had a fun-filled evening.