Sleuthing with Miss Marple as A Murder Is Announced arrives in Norwich
- Credit: Archant
A house, a murder and a group of character all with secrets, actress Janet Dibley tells us about Agatha Christie's classic whodunit that comes with a minefield of motives and red herrings.
With no shortage of suspects and motives, the Agatha Christie classic A Murder Is Announced arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal next week offering a chance to become detective and follow Miss Marple's progress through a minefield of motives and red herrings.
The whodunit plot begins when an advertisement is placed in the local newspaper warning that a murder is set to happen. A group of residents get together at the date, time and venue of the predicted death, and sure enough the lights go out and a gun is fired. Enter the ever-curious Miss Marple to try and unravel the mystery.
The cast of this latest production, which debut in Norwich before touring until November, features host of popular names from the TV and stage.
Taking on the role of Miss Marple is EastEnders, Bergerac and Doctor Who actress Louise Jameson, while Janet Dibley, who starred opposite Nicholas Lyndhurst in 1980s romantic comedy The Two of Us and in EastEnders, is playing Letitia Blacklock, the owner of the home where the murder happens.
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You play Letitia Blacklock who is central to the plot. What can you tell us about the character?
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She is kind of the central character in that it all takes place in her house. She is very much a lady of the house and the murder that is announced in the newspaper is said to be going to take place at 6.30pm that night in her home. It is seen through all the character's perspectives but it is basically her world. And it is how she deals with that, as well as how all the characters hide; are they who they appear to be? They have all got secrets. And it is all revealed. It is classic Christie.
When people think of Agatha Chrsitie they think of a certain type of convoluted whodunit plot. Is that what we will get?
Yes, but there are twists. That is Agatha Christie's great skill, of course, but also her ability to capture that 1940s world. It is a very English world of that period. I haven't done an Agatha Christie before which is unusual because in the day you broke your teeth as a theatre actor on your Agatha Chrsitie's and your Alan Ayckbourn's. Somehow though I avoided it, or it avoided me, but I'm really pleased to be catching up with it.
Were you a fan of Agatha Christie before?
You know I wasn't. Not that I wasn't, but I was more of a Georgette Heyer fan. Historical romances were more my thing in my teens. I wasn't into the thrillers as such. I have read A Murder Is Announced though, the actual book, and it is extraordinary. It does draw up a world that is kind of a bygone age. Also I think for actresses she wrote women that are really interesting which you don't often get. For example we have a character with Alzheimer's, an older lady who is beautifully portrayed.
This is a Miss Marple mystery, being played by Louise Jameson. Having an older woman a centre of a thriller still seems unusual after all these decades…
Yes. She an extraordinary kind of sleuth really; she is almost a template for understated characters who you don't expect to solve the case. It is the underdog and that is part of her winning formula I think. People love it; to sit and watch as she unravels it. It is certainly fun to play with.
This production is set in the 1940s. Does Agatha Christie have to be set in the period?
Theatre breaks rules often but I think the pleasure of seeing this is the period and the style of it. Certainly in the playing of it when I had a costume fitting it was fantastic to put the period clothes on. I love that and the cups and saucers and the cake; all the very English essence of it. It is part of our heritage and there are aficionados of it.
Like most Christie stories it is very much an ensemble cast of characters. Is that fun to be part of?
Everybody gets a bite of the cake. We all carry the baton of 'who is it?' We haven't actually opened yet — we do that in Norwich next week, so in performance I don't know how it is going to be. However in rehearsals it is clear that each character has there moments because it has to be open because you don't know who did it. That is the pleasure of a play like this.
This could hardly be more different from your last big show, the 1970s-set musical Jackie…
It is so different! That is lucky for me in a way that I can go from something musical with 1970s costumes with platform shoes and then here I am with brogues and tweeds. I like to keep it varied. I loved Jackie The Musical. But again it's a woman of a certain age. Thank god for things like Jackie and Christie they keep women of my age employed.
• A Murder Is Announced, Norwich Theatre Royal, July 3-8, 7.30pm, 2.30pm July 5/8, £24.50-£7, 01603 630000, www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk