Review: The Mirror Crack’d. Royal and Derngate Northampton. (touring)

I’ve always loved a classic murder mystery, and It’s safe to say that no one does it quite better than the legendary Agatha Christie herself. Which is why the theatre production of her novel turned film, The Mirror Crack’d, caught my attention long before the very moment I had taken my seat. My expectations through the roof, it could not be any more perfect, on the night of Halloween in the grand Royal auditorium in Northampton. Yet despite that, The Mirror Crack’d still manages to excel beyond what I could ever have imagined. It has it all! The constant suspense, the twists and turns each step of the way, and the unravelling threads all leading to a grand reveal that will even have many Miss Marple fanatics stumped.

A name that needs no introduction, Agatha Christie’s iconic novel ‘The Mirror Crack’d’ is brought to life in a new live adaptation. Rachel Wagstaff’s theatrical interpretation turns what was already a phenomenal page turner into a play that has everyone on the edge of their seat. With director Phillip Franks only adding more depth and emotion to a tale of revenge, deceit and secrecy in a production that does more than justice to its source material. It’s always a pleasure to see a show in the Royal auditorium at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate. It’s hard to think of any other play that could better make use of the regal room, especially with the fantastic stage design.

The story finds the beloved Miss Marple (Susie Blake) chair-ridden after an accident, left alone to wonder what life could have been. Her pondering is soon interrupted after a local loudmouth, Heather Leigh (Jules Melvin), has been mistakenly poisoned. What appears to be a failed attempt on the life of a Hollywood star, Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward), soon unravels to something far more. Alongside her reluctant uppity nephew, Chief Inspector Craddock (Oliver Boot), Miss Marple hobbles along to get to the bottom of the case. It’s best to go in unaware, but be warned, everyone is a suspect.

What I can say without spoiling the surprise is the outstanding set design is easily the best I’ve seen by far. It takes me right back to the 1960s as it begins in Miss Marple’s living room, furnished, and decorated with what you’d imagine of a sweet old lady. It’s only when the scene shifts to a film set and a variety of places that I’m blown away that it’s all the same stage. The changing in props and background shifting fluidly into a whole new image as the cast quite literally set the scene in character. But something even more impressive is the entire cast’s acting during scenes of memories. Freezing entirely still as characters’ recall events under interrogation. Repeating over in different angles and perspectives in complete continuity.

I’m unsure of how I saw Miss Marple before this production but after seeing Susie Blake quip and question along the case, I can’t see it being anyone else. She radiates the warm innocence of an elderly woman, wittingly two steps ahead of everyone else on the case. Surprisingly having the whole audience in laughter with her quick minded retorts. What I love most though is her chemistry with Dolly Bantry (Veronica Roberts), Miss Marple’s hilariously honest friend. While the entire ensemble adds something to the atmosphere, her personality just gives her the edge with every line. Rambling at the blasphemous sights of ‘supermarkets’ and ‘tight trousers’ in the midst of a murder.

Whether you’re a murder mystery maniac or simply looking for a thrilling night out, The Mirror Crack’d has something for everyone. While you may find yourself a few scenes ahead of some twists, there’s always a shock around the corner. It will have you dying and deliberating to catch the killer. Book your tickets while you still can at the Royal & Derngate until November 5th.

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