Although this play made its premiere only at the start of last year, it feels like the subject matter of Murder, Margaret and Me and Phillip Meeks' writing sits somewhere in the middle of being a gripping modern play or an established classic. It may tilt towards the latter as we witness the rocky relationship between the iconic film star Margaret Rutherford and iconic author Agatha Christie at the time when Rutherford was cast as Miss Marple, turning Christie's stories into, as she anxiously describes early on, a "brand". Or at least the relationship might have been rocky, it is difficult to tell as the supporting character of "The Spinster" informs us that;
“The only real truth in what you are about to see is that Miss Margaret Rutherford didn’t want anyone to know the truth.”
At this point, we know we are in for a story that is full of uncertainty concerning these two well-known figures in literature and cinema, as their secrets boil beneath the surfaces. But it is also quite funny and frankly a light-hearted evening thanks to both Meeks' writing and director Christine Bland's intimate and honest production, performed terrifically by three ladies.
I admit I did go into this quite blind, as I don't really know any of Christie's work nor have seen Margaret Rutherford on screen. So I cannot make any comments on accuracy, but Ros Davies' portrayal of Rutherford is simply joyous to watch. She brings natural warmth to the role, with charming mannerisms, a sense of humour and Received Pronunciation that makes her believable as this well-known figure. But at times it is a heart-breaking performance as we learn the truth about Rutherford's back story. Davies brings a unique brilliant performance which perfectly gels with this British black comedy genre.
Mary Ruane also brings warmth to her portrayal of Agatha Christie, as her relationship with Rutheford begins as slightly bitter, only for her to turn into her friend and saviour. She naturally adopts a loving and caring persona with a hint of dark humour as she seems slightly obsessed over the fate of her characters in her famous stories and their methods of murder.
Playing various other characters but mostly as "The Spinster", Louise Price guides us through the story between these two iconic characters and dives every now and then into the scenes with them. She probably has the most stage time of the three, knitting away in a subtle but omnipresent manner.
This play however isn't without its flaws. At times I felt myself drifting off and missing parts as it does feel quite long, especially as there are only three characters in it – ideally it could’ve been a lot shorter as a one act play, opposed to two. But nonetheless this is a charming production by the company at the Hall Green Little Theatre whose efforts are well paid off throughout this marvellous performance. Whether you are a Christie and Rutherford fan or not, this play is a lovely observation of the protection of art becoming the protection of friendship with hints of nostalgia and a good few laughs along the way.
Murder, Margaret and Me runs until Saturday 23rd June at the Hall Green Little Theatre.
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