Sunday, May 19, 2013

THE HOLLOW

Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by Jon Elphick
Tempo Theatre Inc
Belconnen Theatre May 17 to 25

Review by Len Power 17 May 2013



If, like many others, you left one of last year’s flurry of productions of Agatha Christie’s famous play, ‘The Mousetrap’, with a sense of disappointment, you won’t feel like that after seeing Tempo’s new production of Agatha Christie’s much superior whodunit, ‘The Hollow’.

Adapted by Agatha Christie herself from her novel written in 1946, the play was first staged in 1951 in London and had a successful eleven month run.  Set at a house called ‘The Hollow’ in the English countryside, a weekend of simmering passions explodes in murder.  A police inspector with a deceptively low-key approach has the task of unmasking the murderer and, as always, you’ll never guess who it is.  The play succeeds because we can relate to these rather normal characters and their actions and, even after we learn who the murderer is, the finale has further exciting twists that leave us breathless.

Jon Elphick’s production moves at a cracking pace.  His cast of twelve have generally developed very strong and real characters that make this a very believable drama.  Outstanding were Cheryl Browne as the hilariously absent-minded Lady Angkatell, Canberra newcomer, Jo Bailey, as the sweet but practical Midge Harvey, John Maddock as the perfect old butler, Gudgeon, and Cherie Kelly as the down-trodden wife, Gerda Cristow.  Kate Blackhurst as the formidable film star, Veronica Craye, gave a strong performance but her costume and hair did not suit the character she was playing.  Perhaps the popular 1950s bleached-blonde film star look would have worked better?  Alex Davies, in a gem of a part as the Inspector’s sidekick, Detective Sergeant Penny, missed out on some of the best potential laughs in the play as his delivery was too fast and flat.

The costumes, credited to Marian Fitzgerald, Jon Elphick and the cast, were generally well chosen and reflected the period of the play.  Sound and lighting effects by Tony Galliford were well done, especially the realistic timing of the thunder after the lightning.  The sounds were possibly a little too loud at times, making some audience members around me jump, to my great amusement.  The set designed by the director, Jon Elphick, was practical but needed more flair, maybe from a dedicated set designer who knows the magic of making a set look more expensive even within a limited budget.

I enjoyed ‘The Hollow’ and, if you’d like to see an exciting play from the era of well-made plays, you can’t go wrong with this Tempo production.  And it murders ‘The Mousetrap’!

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 19 May 2013

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