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Verdict

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 28th Sep 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge


Verdict - Robert Duncan as Professor Karl Henryk and Susan Penhaligon as Lisa Koletzky.JPG

Verdict

Darlington Civic Theatre

Bill Kenwright’s ‘Agatha Christie Theatre Company’ may have earned itself a highly acclaimed reputation for staging first-class productions of work by the so-called ‘Queen of Crime’. But, a word of warning: don’t go to one of their shows expecting to see Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, nor even Tommy or Tuppence Beresford – you’ll be disappointed!

However, if you do go expecting to see a classy adaptation of one of Ms Christie’s ‘overlooked’ or ‘forgotten’ gems you’ll be in for a pleasant couple of hours. Having already given their stylish treatment to Witness for the Prosecution, Spider’s Web, And Then There Were None, The Unexpected Guest and The Hollow, they are now presenting Verdict, their sixth major production in as many years.

In essence, Verdict is a piece which examines the psychology of relationships between men and women rather than being a traditional ‘whodunit’ of the style usually associated with Christie. It is a play which has many levels and, although the murder takes place onstage, in full view of the audience, thus depriving them of the opportunity of guessing the murderers identity, it is strangely engrossing. Instead, the audience is kept in suspense to see if the culprit gets away with their crime at the expense of framing an innocent. And will the verdict, when it is given, be the right one?

As usual, Kenwright has assembled a stellar cast, led by Robert Duncan and Susan Penhaligon in the central roles. Elizabeth Power provides the moments of light relief in the role of the gossiping char, whilst Mark Wynter, Peter Byrne, Cassie Raine, Holly Goss and Mark Martin (understudying for Lyndon Ogbourne) make up the supporting principals.

Overall, the performances are good (although the Eastern European accents were a little wayward at times) and the production values are high. Verdict may not appeal to Christie purists but, nevertheless, it makes for a compelling and absorbing trip to the theatre.

Steve Burbridge.

 Runs until Saturday 1st October 2011.

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