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Murder, Marple & Me - The Customs House, South Shields

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 16th May 2013 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

 Janet Prince in Murder Marple and Me_photo by steve ullathorne.JPG

Murder, Marple & Me – The Customs House, South Shields

Margaret Rutherford’s performance as Miss Marple made her a true movie icon, but it nearly didn’t happen. This intriguing new play, by Philip Meeks, humorously unearths the fascinating reasons why.

Janet Prince, playing Rutherford, Agatha Christie and Miss Marple is nothing less than a one-woman wonder. Seldom have I seen a performer own a stage and single-handedly hold the attention of an entire audience for more than an hour in the way that she does. Everything about her performance is utterly compelling – from the way she inhabits each character with a complete conviction that seems effortless, to the glint in her eyes that flash frequently with dazzling intensity.

As it should be, Murder, Marple & Me is a deeply intimate production. As we witness a clash of two of Britain’s most influential women in the arts in the 1950s and 60s who staggered through a mutual distaste for each other, and a serious aversion to each other’s work, Meeks demonstrates the trademarks of his craft that have confirmed him as one of the defining playwrights of his generation.

Beautifully-written and masterfully crafted, the ebullience of Rutherford’s personality is pitched perfectly. This contrasts nicely with the demure spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, who sits on the sidelines, knitting all the while, and acting as something akin to narrator, and the clipped, cut-glass tones of the rather haughty Dame Agatha. Often moving and, at times, deeply poignant, Meeks avoids over-sentimentality by lacing the script with some wonderfully witty one-liners that have a tendency to take you completely by surprise.

Indeed, this first-class production, which is now touring having enjoyed a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, offers a fascinating foray into the life of a flawed, fallible woman who endured a traumatic childhood which would result in her spending periods in mental institutions and embarking upon eccentric relationships with stuffed toys.

On stage, we are drawn into the interwoven story of three intriguing, larger than life characters and, in the same way that Rutherford, Christie and Marple were a force to be reckoned with, off stage it is the talented trio made up by actress Janet Prince, writer Philip Meeks and director Stella Duffy that have created a wonderfully entertaining and truly memorable play.

Steve Burbridge.

Runs at The Customs House until Wednesday 16 May 2013, before continuing to tour until the end of June.



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Thanks, Steve. This sounds like a future classic.
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