‘Murder on the Nile’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by May 14, 2018

‘Murder on the Nile’ is a stage play by one of the world’s greatest crime writers, Agatha Christie. The play was originally called ‘Moon on the Nile’, and then this play which featured Hercule Poirot, was then adapted into a book – the 1937 murder mystery novel, ‘Death on the Nile’. Christie then rewrote the ‘Nile’ work whilst working on the theatrical version of ‘And Then There Were None’.

Christie was tired of her character Poirot and wanted to have a new detective; but her good friend, Francis Sullivan, was desperate to act in a Poirot play and so, as a special favour, Christie wrote the part of Canon Pennefather for him in place of Poirot.

When the original play opened at the Dundee Repertory Theatre, it was launched under the title ‘Hidden Horizon’. The play was relaunched in 1942 with its present name, before going to London’s West End in March 1946. Although it is one of Christie’s best plays, it opened to a cool reception.

Amazingly, the presence of ‘a maid’ in the cast caused the UK’s Ministry of Labour to delay the play’s opening.

This brilliant, 130-minutes ‘whodunit’ is being presented by the Koorliny Arts centre and the Kwinana Industries Council. It can be seen at 7.30 pm in Theatre 1 in the Koorliny Arts Centre, Sulphur Road, Kwinana Town Centre on Friday and Saturdays until 19th May. There are Saturday matinées at 2.00 pm.

 

The scene: it is 1944. The action takes place in the observation saloon of the paddle steamer Lotus; as it cruises over three days on the River Nile.

The stunning set, which oozed opulence, was designed by Kim Angus and Jon Lambert. It was constructed by Peter ‘Pear’ Carr and Stephen Carr. The room had waist high, dark-oak panelling and a drinks bar. Painted in a dusky, dark rose and black by Kate McIntosh, Jon Lambert, and Allen Blachford, the walls were adorned with golden framed pictures of Egyptian scenes and King George V. Two brass chandeliers all gave true class to the boat.

The many 1944 props included a 30-inch cork lifebelt, fine table cloths and antique chairs. The stylish patio doors leading onto the realistic deck were solidly built by Brad Tudor, Jon Lambert and Natalie Burbage.

The perfect, subtle mood lighting was designed and operated by Alex Coutts-Smith.

Sound design and sound effects were sourced by Peter Shaw, then mixed and operated by Alex Coutts-Smith.

The production, which was managed by Kate McIntosh, was stage managed by Rachel Monamy, who was aided by Mishka Miller and Eleanor Weller.

 

     On the Nile steamer ‘Lotus’, a new group of tourists are embarking. They are followed by a couple of annoying Arab peddlers (Rachel Monamy and Chewe Black) who are trying to earn a dollar by selling beads and dirty photos. The first on board are a couple of honeymooners, the ‘richest girl in England’ Kay Mostyn (Ruth Bennett) and her new husband, Simon Mostyn (Max Gipson); they are accompanied by their French maid, Louise (Alex Thorburn). The head steward (Allen Blachford) has to drag the bead sellers away before having a chance to welcome the passengers to his cruise.

     There is a large commotion and a wealthy snobbish, bigoted and thoroughly unlikeable woman, Miss ffoliot ffoulkes (Lis Hoffman) wafts in, closely followed by her nervous niece, Christina (Nicquelle Rhodes) who is Ms ff’s ‘lap dog’ and general slave. They are shown to their cabin, only to return seconds later stating how unsuitable it is. A young wise-cracking man, Will Smith (Brad Tudor), who is being served a brandy by the bar steward (Chewe Black), makes a smart remark about the obnoxious old maid and thus incurs Miss ffoliot ffoulkes wrath.

     To her horror, Kay spots her ex-best friend, Jacqueline de Severac (Kate E. Williams) who was also her husband’s ex-fiancée, and from whom Kay blatantly stole Simon. Jacqueline is still furious at losing Simon, and is determined to win him back.

       Kay is relieved to find that her favourite uncle, the officious, Bible-thumping, Canon Pennefather (Jon Lambert) is on board and asks him to help get rid of Jacqueline.

       Whilst Simon is having a drink in the lounge, Jacqueline appears with a pistol and Simon is accidentally shot in the knee. Another passenger, Dr Bessner (Peter Shaw) a German medic, bandages the wound.

       Very soon, a dead body is found and all of the deductive skills of Canon Pennefather are required to find the murderer.

 

The costumes (by cast and crew) were amazing. The Canon wore a black, dress-coat rather than a black cassock, and the bead sellers white linen Arab garb. The costumes ranged from the maid’s pale mushroom coloured cotton dress, to the white baggy culottes of Jacqueline and the vibrant dresses of Kay. The aunt’s little fascinator hat, and Kay’s diamanté hairclip all added to the style of the era. Even the shoes – and bare feet – were exactly correct.

Director Kim Angus who won last year’s prestigious ‘Best Director of a Musical’ Finley’s Award, has selected the cast carefully, and perfectly rehearsed them for their delivery and movements; but what really shone through, was how thoroughly the cast understood their characters, by giving a remarkable depth to their parts. The pace was perfect, and the chemistry outstanding.

Delightful and powerful performances from the pompous Canon, to Miss ff the passenger from Hell. Chewe was tremendous as the annoying bead seller and then showed a completely different personality as the steward. Kay and Jacqueline looked stunning and presented the posh upper-class mannerisms wonderfully.

The French and German accents were superb, and the upper class, English drawl was excellent and did not appear ‘put on’.

A rare ‘complete’ production, where EVERY aspect of the play had been well-researched and considered, with the audience receiving top quality costumes, set, props, lighting and sound. The amount of work that had been put in by everyone was obvious.

A gripping whodunit, with a few laughs thrown in, that would be enjoyable for young teenagers through to ninety year olds. HIGHLY recommended.