by Janet Head

Miss Marple came to the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford, last week. Agatha Christie's 'A Murder is Announced' was published in 1950 and features the reappearance of Miss Marple after an absence of 7 years and a return to the village setting which was so effective in 'Murder at the Vicarage.' The characters are wonderfully drawn in the book and come to life on the stage of the Kenneth More Theatre.

The role of a local newspaper is integral to the plot. Where is the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette and what do they mean when they announce that a murder will be committed at Little Paddocks on Friday 13th?

Christine Keates gives a wonderful performance as the mild but highly perceptive Miss Marple, an apparently frail old lady who, clutching her wicker basket, expertly solves the clues that are expertly worked into a complex whodunnit plot with a wealth of suspects and red herrings.

Lesley Curtis played a very credible, beautifully fluttery and muddled Dora Bunner. Jacqui Lodge delicately played the sensitive and kind but nervous Letitia (Letti) Blacklock and John Chapman gave an impressive performance as the thoughtful, often, and less than incisive Inspector Craddock. Joanne Shore, as Mitzi the eastern European maid, brought delightful and underplayed humour and pathos to the part.

Phillip Rowlands , SiobhanSchofield, Suzanne Newman, Lorraine Porter, Harry Ward and Peter Heaney provided good support in their various roles as very credible characters.

Chris Andrews as Rudi Scherz makes a extraordinarily brief but (one might say) pivotal appearance, entering and dying in a darkened room without any death throes. In the circumstances, his performance can only be described as ‘moving.'

The cast successfully weave illegitimacy, the spectre of incest, duplicity, money and would be heirs into this murder mystery, combining to keep the audience guessing to the very end of an enjoyable and captivating production.

Grant Alvarez has once again constructed and dressed a set that is worthy of a West End production and his use of an Ormolu clock is striking.

Steven Day has, for the second successive week directed a very successful production but in a very different genre to the exuberant 'Pirates of Penzance' of last week. His appointment as General Manager and Artistic Director, and his versatility, heralds a breath of fresh air and an exciting future for the Kenneth More Theatre.