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Verdict @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 12th Jul 2011 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

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Agatha Christie is the undisputed 'Queen of Crime' and has created a wealth of memorable sleuths, including Poirot and Miss Marple.  The character of Poirot was created in 1920 and Christie continued to write his stories for the next 55 years, which is why nearly a century later he has been played by numerous actors on radio, film and TV and is popular around the world. The public’s need to watch a good murder mystery drama remains unchanged and The Agatha Christie Theatre Company has been touring her plays since 2006.  Verdict is the eighth production from the Company, which has produced some highly acclaimed tours and is part of Bill Kenwright’s theatrical empire.

Verdict was written and first performed in 1958 at the Strand Theatre.  The play is not a typical ‘whodunnit’ but rather is a psychological drama about ethics and morals.  It’s also a play about the various types of love – from the caring, loyal love of a husband for his invalid wife, to the impossible, distant love of someone unattainable, to the obsessive, manipulative and ultimately destructive love of someone who can’t have what they want.  There is a murder, but we see ‘whodunnit’ and it’s the consequences of what happens afterwards that make this an intriguing play, with many unexpected twists and turns. The Verdict is about what value we put on life and the inner turmoil of someone struggling to do the right thing.  

Verdict is Joe Harmston’s seventh production as Artistic Director of the Agatha Christie Company and he manages to keep the integrity of the piece perfectly, as we begin to understand the lives and vulnerabilities of the characters.  All the action takes places in the shabby study crammed from floor to ceiling with books, effectively designed by Simon Scullion.
The play draws us in gradually as we get to know the characters and their relationships.
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Robert Duncan (Drop the Dead Donkey) plays Karl Hendryk, the émigré academic caring for his invalid wife.  His accent is very good and he gives an impressively accomplished performance, as the morally upstanding Professor who finds himself in the invidious position of trying to do the right thing, whilst not compromising his beliefs and integrity.

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Susan Penhaligon (best known for Bouquet of Barbed Wire) complimented his accent perfectly, playing Lisa the devoted cousin of his wife who she takes care of.  Susan still looks stunning and gives an exceptionally dramatic, but very believable performance, of a woman who suffers for the man she loves.

Cassie Rayne is Anya the depressed professor’s wife, fed up with being ill and wanting to end her life.  Cassie’s accent crossed from Eastern Europe right through to Ireland, which unfortunately spoilt the belief in her character.

Helen Rollander is the elegant, petulant debutante who always gets her way and is played with great depth and understanding by Holly Goss.  Her father, the wealthy and influential, Sir William Rollander (played with dignity by Peter Bryne) resorts to bribery and corruption to ensure his daughter has everything she wants.

Former pop star Mark Wynter administers to Anya as the jovial and enthusiastic Doctor Stoner.  The comedy mainly comes from Elizabeth Power (Eastenders), playing the cunning and deceitful Cockney housekeeper Mrs Roper.

The cast is ably supported by earnest student Lester (Lyndon Ogbourne),  Andrew Malkin as the officious, hard-nosed Detective Inspector Ogden and his keen young sidekick Police Sergeant Pearce (Mark Martin).
Some atmospheric lighting (Mike Robertson) and sound (Matthew Bugg) and the perfect period costumes of Martin Clarke all add to the mood.   There is also great attention to detail, as a neglected house plant gradually withers as the play progresses.

Verdict is a welcome insight into another era where the punishment really did fit the crime.  I really don’t enjoy watching TV crime dramas that rely unnecessarily on graphic shots of murder victims.  Clever writing doesn’t need that and with an Agatha Chrisite play you can guarantee that you’ll be kept guessing right up until the end.

Tickets are on sale now at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Box Office call 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee) or visit www.ambassadortickets.com/aylesbury (bkg fee).

Performances:   Mon 11 Jul – Sat 16 Jul
Mon- Sat eves 7.30pm
Thu & Sat Mat 2.30pm
Tickets:   £12 – 28.50 
Box Office:   0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)
Groups Hotline:  0844 871 7614
Access Booking: 0844 871 7677 (bkg fee)
Online Booking: www.ambassadortickets.com/aylesbury   (bkg fee)

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
on 11th July 2011

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