|Kim Wilson as Canon Pennefather|
Written by Agatha Christie
Directed by Jon Elphick
Tempo Theatre production
Belconnen Theatre to 29 October
Reviewed by Len Power 21 October 2022
One of the great Agatha Christie novels, “Death On The Nile “, was first published in 1937. It was dramatised as “Murder On The Nile” and opened in London’s West End in 1946. It’s probably best known to audiences who flocked to the 1978 film adaption with Peter Ustinov and an all star cast and the TV version with David Suchet in 2004. The least said about the overblown 2021 film adaptation by Kenneth Branagh, the better.
While the novel and films feature the beloved character, Hercule Poirot, it’s a surprise to find that the play does not include him. Instead we have a parson, Canon Pennefather. This enabled Christie to have a character with a believably murky past so that suspicion falls on him, too. Christie felt that this change gave the play more drama as audiences would have decided that Poirot was above suspicion.
The drama all takes place on the observation deck of the paddle steamer, “Lotus” on the River Nile in Egypt between Shellal and Wadi Haifa. The nicely designed set by the director, Jon Elphick, gives plenty of playing area for the substantial cast. The play moves at a good pace and the director has ensured that the cast give well-rounded characterisations.
Kim Wilson takes the lead as Canon Pennefather and is particularly fine and believable. The rest of the cast all give good performances.
Of particular note are Christina Grant, as the harried companion, Paul Jackson as Dr. Bessner, with a realistic German accent and demeanour, Jacqueline Forrester as the newly-wed rich girl, Kay Mostyn, and Mark Ritchie as her bridegroom, Simon Mostyn.
Another Kim Wilson as Jacqueline De Severac, the spurned and jealous girlfriend of Simon Mostyn and Kah-Mun Wong as Louise, a mysterious passenger from Paris, also give good performances.
A big surprise in this production was that Kim Wilson, who played Kay Mostyn, Kah-Mun Wong and Jacqueline Forrester are relatively new to acting on stage. Their performances were confident with a believable sense of the characters they were playing. They performed as though they had been acting for years and have a bright future.
My companion, who had not seen the show in any film adaptation and had not read the novel was completely fooled by the ingenious plot. For those who know the plot from the novel or films, it’s a rare chance to see how it works on stage. This is one of Tempo Theatre’s better productions.
This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 22 October.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.