Go Back for Murder

Date 10th May 2024
Society Peaslake Players
Venue Peaslake Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Sarah Trotman
Written By Agatha Christie

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

Go Back For Murder appeared first as the novel ‘Five Little Pigs’ in 1942, and appeared later as the play with the new title in 1960. As is to be expected, it is full of Christie’s twists, turns, surprises, and marvellous characters. She certainly keeps one guessing right to the end. It tells the story of a young Canadian woman, Carla le Marchant, determined to clear her late mother’s conviction for the murder – by poisoning of course – of her errant husband.

The Director, Sarah Trotman, had the great idea of not revealing who the murderer was to the cast until the very last weeks of rehearsal.

Peaslake yet again came up with some interesting ideas for the scenery/set. The first act scenes were set in London, at the offices of Fogg and Fogg, solicitors, and Philip Blake’s real estate company, and then the Dorchester Hotel, where Carla was staying and the retired governess Miss Williams' cosy home. All these settings were suggested by clever projections on the back wall consisting of various photos. I remember, for example, Miss Williams' cats, her kitchen, her living room, and for the offices, the view of St Paul’s from one of the windows, the outside view of the building with the office sign and so on. These were very intriguing. A clever touch, especially when filmed excerpts from evidence given by one or two of the characters replaced one of the photos; Hard to describe but very effective.

Props were simple – a chaise longue, a desk, some armchairs, a stool, small tables and so on. Scene changes were fluent. There was also a garden terrace with a bench and a potting bench, artist’s easel, paints and brushes, beer bottles and glasses.

The ladies were very elegantly dressed. For Carla a lovely black and white full-skirted dress with jacket, for Elsa the most marvellous black gown with floaty jacket, astonishing white fur wrap and cuffs on the jacket to match. Flamboyant jewellery, and an even more amazing and fascinating hat. For Caroline, a simple pretty brown day dress which suited her homely character of the dutiful wife and young mother. Suits largely for the gents, although Jeff the potential Canadian fiancé, was kitted out cattle rancher style. Tomboy dungarees for the lively young Angela, which casual style continued really once she had grown up – nothing formal for her!

Sound and lighting were very effective throughout.

Sarah Trotman and the Peaslake team gave us a well-crafted and elegant production of this excellent whodunnit – and who doesn’t love a good Agatha Christie? The hall was a sell-out, no surprise there.

Ben Hilton as Justin Fogg, the son of Cara’s mother’s late solicitor, gave a good performance as the young man intrigued by Cara’s story, despite his initial dismissal of her insistence on her mother’s innocence. We later realised that his interest was becoming more than just a professional one. Jude Pitcher made a fine Cara, elegant, intelligent, and doggedly determined in her quest.  She was determined too to keep up her Canadian accent, which she managed to do throughout. There was a nice cameo performance by Kim Fergusson as Turnbull, Fogg and Fogg’s long-serving clerk.

We were slightly surprised to meet Cara’s wealthy cattle breeder fiancé Jeff. Young Mr Fogg was horrified by this fellow’s crass attitude, and was perplexed, as were we, as to why the classy Cara should have thought of a future with him. Paul Elliott was good in this role, and in that costume too, and also kept his accent well.

Two brothers, life-long friends of Cara’s father Amyas, could not have been more different. The real estate man, Philip, was focused on making money and living the good life. His brother Meredith, on the other hand, loved life in the country and studying plants – including poisonous ones of course. Mike Sutton, who played Philip, and Felix Cuthbert, who played Meredith, made their roles their own, great character actors both.

Angela, who was Caroline, the condemned woman’s half-sister, a writer of, was it travel books, was down to earth, matter of fact, a practical sort of person. In the second half, as the play went back in time to the events of many years previously, she was the spoilt, precocious darling of Caroline and Amyas – always bouncing about, getting up to pranks, listening in to the adults’ conversations, and generally being thoroughly annoying, yet still well loved. So this was a fun performance by Kate MacDougall, larger than life and full of mischief – every 12 year old’s ideal best friend! Difficult to play a young girl of that ilk, but Kate pulled it off very well indeed.

Her governess, Miss Williams, who obviously had had her work cut out, was cool, calm and collected, and very much part of the family, well played by Caroline Heslop.

We met all these characters in the first half, as Cara was trying to get them all to come down to the old family house to try to reconstruct the circumstances of the crime. So in the second half, as we went back 20 years or so, we met the murdered artist, Amyas, his mistress Elsa, and his wife Caroline. Bobby Knott was a very plausible Amyas, quietly confident, quite a kind man, fond of his wife, yet a persistent philanderer, though not in a loud way. A good character portrayal, I thought.  Caroline, as played so well by Abbie Pritchard, was a dear thing, though she could easily fly off the handle, understandable considering the stress she was under having to deal with her husband’s many infidelities. Elsa seemed a cold fish, out for what she could get, very attractive and slinky, seemingly oblivious to all the characters around her, totally focussed on acquiring Amyas. Once again, a great performance from Sarah Knott.

So, great casting, excellent atmosphere conjured up by the intriguing projections, memorable performances, and an amazing ending! A great evening’s entertainment once again in Peaslake!

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