The Hollow

Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich Theatre Royal

There's nothing like an Agatha Christie classic whodunit to make you feel at home. Whether you read one, watch the great David Suchet Poirot series on telly or take a trip to the theatre, you pretty much know what to expect.

You might not be able to work out the villain but the country house set, the eccentric extended family, the glamorous costumes and the shocking affairs are part and parcel of a typical Christie piece.

This solid if somewhat uninspired production is from a new company, set up by leading theatrical impresario Bill Kenwright, to perform the great lady's works.

The choice of The Hollow for their inaugural tour was understandable. It was written in 1946 with the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot as a central character. By 1951, it had been turned into a stage play - minus the great detective.

We meet the slightly dotty Angkatell family at their posh home near London. Characters are quickly introduced in true Christie fashion and, just as you're starting to wonder who gets it, down goes the not-so-good doctor, John Cristow (played by Ben Nealon).

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All the usual twists and turns ensue, and no, I didn't guess the murderer, but what raises this from the mundane is the cast, which includes several household names. Tony Britton was due to play Sir Henry Angkatell but was unwell so his role was played by John Harwood who did a sterling job. Kate O'Mara, looking as good as ever, played his batty wife and Tracey Childs tackled the role of sculptor Henrietta, one of the doctor's many girlfriends.

Former Corrie babe Chloe Newsome showed some strong acting ability as a young Midge Harvey while Gary Mavers, from Peak Practice, turned detective.

Sure, this is a mannered piece. The language and staging can jar with a modern audience and it is about as far away from today's in-your-face alternative theatre or a Hollywood blockbuster as you could imagine.

But is has been carefully updated to appeal to a more upfront generation and what it has in its favour, of course, is a great plot.

Long live Christie - still the queen of crime.

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