Monday 17 October 2022


Theatre review: Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd at Oxford Playhouse

Anyone who's visited this blog in recent years will know I'm a big fan of murder mysteries, especially those written by Agatha Christie. Her huge collection of works has stood the test of time for a reason, and is being adapted into brand-new cinematic and theatrical adaptations to this day. Witness for the Prosecution has been running successfully for years (as has The Mousetrap, which recently celebrated 70 years in the West End) and earlier this year I saw the excellent Murder on the Orient Express at the Chichester Festival Theatre (which also had a short stint in Bath). Now, The Mirror Crack'd is on tour across the UK and I had the pleasure of catching a performance at the Oxford Playhouse.
Miss Marple is legendary, not in the least due to the 1980s/1990s TV-show in which Joan Hickson portrayed the iconic character for nearly 10 years. Now Susie Blake has taken on the role of this elderly "busybody" with a knack for solving murders in her local village of St Mary Mead on the stage. She is wonderful and everything you'd expect from the amateur detective; clever, sticking her nose in where perhaps it doesn't belong, and with just the right amount of self-awareness about how she's (wrongfully) perceived to get people to trust her and spill all their dirty secrets.

This time around, Heather Leigh (Jules Melvin), a local nobody dies at a party of Hollywood actress Marina Greig (Sophie Ward) who has just bought a house in St Mary Mead. People immediately realise that the poison in Heather's glass was meant for the hostess instead, as she has made some enemies during her time in Hollywood. And so the investigation begins, with bumbling Chief Inspector Craddock from Scotland Yard (the excellent Oliver Boot), interviewing everyone who was present at the party, reluctantly sharing his findings with Miss Marple as she has gotten him out of a pickle before.

What follows is a two-hour staging of people recounting the party as best as they can remember from the whereabouts of fellow guests throughout through to conversations they overheard. There are plenty of misdirections in these stories to keep Chief Inspector Craddock and the audience on their toes and some surprising yet delightful humorous moments with fun staging. Part of the set is a two-way mirror, showing the audience (and selected characters) people who are eavesdropping even if the characters in question have no idea. A clever twist on the play's title.

The story and performances were very engaging, so much so that most of our interval was spent discussing the plot progression and our theories about whodunnit. And while some of our guesses were on the right track, we still didn't see the full extend of the revelations coming until near the very end. This is the best kind of murder mystery: one where the audience can play along and feel somewhat smug about picking up clues, yet the ending not being spoiled by predictability.

Miss Marple is definitely flavour of the year, with the release of the Marple book last month (featuring 12 brand-new stories written by contemporary authors) and this play touring the UK. And what a treat it is to have this older amateur sleuth front and centre. The Mirror Crack'd is a prime example of clever, plot-twisty storytelling by Agatha Christie and it works so well in its first theatrical outing. The staging in this production is very simple, but oh so effective. And the performances are strong all-around (especially Susie Blake and Oliver Boot). 

You don't have to be a die-hard Agatha Christie reader to appreciate the story. In fact, in my opinion it's enjoyed even more so without already knowing the ending. But whether you've read the book before, seen an adaptation of The Mirror Crack'd on TV or this Miss Marple story is brand-new to you, you'll be in for an absolute treat with this production by the Original Theatre Company. 


Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd is touring across the UK throughout the remainder of 2022 and into 2023 with shows scheduled in Northampton, Cambridge, Birmingham, and more. You can see the full touring schedule and book your tickets here.

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