Murder on the Nile

Date 14th October 2017
Society Winton Players
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Play
Director John Mill

Report

Author: Mark Donalds

Being familiar with the original novel and the 1978 Peter Ustinov film, it was interesting to be introduced to the stage version, adapted from the novel by Agatha Christie herself in 1944. Strangely, she removed Hercule Poirot from the story, so who would have the necessary little grey cells to unravel the clues and solve the mystery?

In typical Christie fashion, the characters are all introduced in the first scene as they come aboard the Nile steamer and they are then cut off from the outside world as it sets sail. The scene-setting allowed us plenty of time to admire the really high quality set depicting the lounge bar of the ship. It was used, with just a change of backdrop, throughout the play and, along with clever lighting and most realistic sound effects, it created the perfect atmosphere, making us feel as if we were fellow passengers. Costumes and props too were top notch and really evocative of the period.

There was good characterisation by the entire cast but I particularly liked Penny Young’s excellent portrayal of the “bullying old harridan” Miss ffoliot-ffoulkes. I was amazed that her mild-mannered niece Christina, a nicely understated performance by Emily Watts, was not tempted to bump her off amid the flurry of deaths that came later.

Simon Stanley was just right as the provocative, wise-cracking young socialist William Smith. Lucy Davies also impressed as the thoroughly unlikeable spoilt rich girl, Kay Mostyn, who has always taken everything she wanted, including her best friend’s boyfriend. Monika Jankowska was convincing as the spurned friend, dogging Kay’s every move, seeking revenge, and Ryan Watts as Simon Mostyn certainly had me believing that he had been shot in the knee – his pain was almost palpable.

I felt that the first half of the play would have benefitted from a little more pace, with one of the scene changes seeming rather protracted. The problem with making a three act play into two acts is where to put the interval - time-wise, it occurred in a logical place, but it meant that we left the auditorium before any murders had been committed. The second half was consequently much pacier, with the murders taking place, and the culprits being identified - the role of detective was assumed by the travelling cleric, Canon Pennefather (John Edwards).

Agatha Christie’s plays are always good value for the audience – the clues are there if you know where to look and which red herrings to avoid, and it is great fun trying to identify “whodunit”. Thank you Winton Players for a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining evening.