The Unexpected Guest

Date 15th June 2022
Society The Carlton Little Theatre
Venue Little Theatre Birkenhead
Type of Production Play
Director Elaine Stewart
Stage Manager Pam Buckle
Lighting&Sound Brian Williamson&Steve Burridge
Producer Elaine Stewart
Written By Agatha Christie

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

The Unexpected Guest

Carlton Players

15th June 2022

 

The Little Theatre’s latest production, Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “The Unexpected Guest was brought admirably to the stage by the Carlton Players, cleverly directed by Elaine Stewart. This, however, is not your typical Miss Marple or a Poirot mystery, yet a mystery none the less right out of Christie's pen to the paper.

When a stranger drives into a ditch in thick fog on a country road, he walks to the nearest house for help.  Torchlight shines through the French window showing glimpses of a figure slumped in a chair and a women standing statue still gun in hand. The torch is held by Michael Starkwedder (where did Agatha Christie get these names?) believing her story of a sadistic husband he finds himself helping the women Laura Warwick to divert suspicion to a known enemy of her husband - a man called McGregor.

It looks like an open and shut murder case, but it soon becomes clear that the dead man’s wife may be covering up for someone – but who?

With a houseful of suspects and both the motive and opportunity to commit the murder, this play will lead you through classic Christie twists and turns before the true culprit is revealed.

Who murdered him? The nurse? The troubled brother? His mother? The wifes lover?

When The Unexpected Guest opened in the West End in 1958, it was regarded by many as a second Mousetrap. Although it didn’t fulfil this prophecy, it is nevertheless full of the devious twists for which the author is rightly famous.

In true Christie style, the audience decided on each in turn in a play which never lacked pace. The task of finding the killer devolved on Inspector Thomas (Alexander Davies) a nicely judged performance, carrying out very realistic on stage phone calls (never easy to do). Carlton stalwart Gareth Forshaw as his inquisitive and poetically minded sergeant

The Carlton Players have a good reputation and this production will do nothing to harm it, with accomplished acting, especially from, John McGrath completely natural in the role of the unexpected guest Michael Starkwedder.

Vicky Lodge looked right and kept the pace up with slick delivery of lines in the important role of Laura Warwick. However, for me, her performance was too understated and I expected more dramatic reactions from her to the traumatic events. The unexpected caller, hubby dead in his chair and the police calling; this is no time to be reserved.

Good performances came from Sue Reeve as the bustling Miss Bennet (Benny) Michael Hunter as the creepy blackmailing nurse Henry Angell and a wonderfully stiff upper lipped Phyllis Brighouse as Richard Warwick’s mother. Mayoorhan Sevverls gave a convincing portrayal as the political candidate Julian Farrar, who is also Laura’s lover! The young Liam Carr gave a fine performance as the troubled Yan.

As so often with productions at the intimate Little Theatre the set and costumes are as much a part of the overall success, and here again they do not disappoint.  The set was excellent, well done to Pam Buckle and the team, Steve Jones, Les West, Marc Smith, Becka Heath. Praise to Liz Youster for costume: Laura and Michael were perfect for the status and era.

All credit to Carlton Players the final production of this season was a cracker. Thank you to all concerned for a wonderful ‘who done it’. See you all in September.

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA

District 4