Review by Peter McGarry

Peter McGarry is an experienced, independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content of these reviews and will not comment
publicly on what he writes.

Black Coffee (2014):
His name is Hercule Poirot. He's a Belgian....

The line comes early in the play, just to alleviate any doubts that Miss Marple might come clumping into the library of elderly inventor Sir Claud's stately London home.

Not that it would make much difference. Poirot, after all, is just a male Marple with mannerisms and either would soon be digging up the family dirt in time-honoured Agatha Christie fashion to discover who did the old boy in.

The Christie phenomenon is immortal. Her characters are all Cluedo types from a lost era of English society which never really existed. She didn't so much write as create cunning jigsaws. But however you classify it, her touch was pure Midas.

Today the theatrical challenge is to recreate ChristieWorld in the true Thirties style of her glorious potboilers. And the Talisman indeed strike gold with a potty period piece which, when all is said and done on a wonderfully evocative John Ellam centenary set, is truly great fun.

Director Christopher Ward and his team avoid all temptation to play solely for laughs, thereby achieving full entertainment value, even in the face of long stretches of explanatory dialogue. We actually feel we need to listen....

Much hinges on Poirot, of course, now so embedded as the television image of a shuffling, twittering, finicky David Suchet. So it's absolutely full marks to Andrew Bayliss for creating enough recognisable character quirks without making his Poirot a carbon copy or, thankfully, a grating irritant. No small achievement, this.

He is splendidly backed by a formidable Ann Richards whose fluttery spinster Miss Caroline provides joyful moments of delirious eccentricity. This is a performance truly in the mould of the late great Margaret Rutherford. And although his appearance comes late on in the proceedings, Mick Ives renders the so-often tedious police inspector role with a splendidly resounding energy.

To round off an exquisite evening, we even have Sarah Moore's frightened heroine at one point uttering the cherishable line: "Oh no....no....not that...!"

As Hercule himself says: "The symmetry - it is everything."

In this case, right on, mon ami.



2016 Talisman Theatre