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Agatha Christie's Black Coffee

Dates 6 May - 3 June 2006, Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm Venue Metro Theatre, 1370 Southwest Marine Drive, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Atreus poster
Tom Kavadias as Poirot

Whodunnit? The pervading theme of Agatha Christie's stage plays and novels, this best-know mystery writer sold over three billion copies of her works. Although many find her "well-made" plays old-fashioned, I still believe it's imperative that theatre companies include her plays in their repertoire.

Black Coffee was the first stage play of Agatha Christie. Her agent advised her not to bother submitting it to any theatre, as in his opinion it was not good enough to be staged! However, a friend of hers who was connected with theatrical management thought otherwise, and the play was accepted for production at the Embassy Theatre in London in 1930. It was a success, and later, it was produced again in the West End of London at St Martin's Theatre, where it had a healthy run of several months.

Metro Theatre's production wasn't bad at all. Everything flowed smoothly, except a scene when the butler came in and no one talked. Perhaps that's because you don't talk when help is around. Or possibly it's because of that much abused phrase in mysteries: "The butler did it."

But I was more concerned with the actors' accents. Everyone had to have accents in this play, but some actors didn't quite hit them right. Tom Kavadias (Hercule Poirot), despite the clear delivery of his lines, lacked a truly French accent. Sarah Holden-Boyd (Barbara Armory) was trying too hard to sound like an English socialite but just didn't make the grade. Charlotte Herst (Lucia Armory) came close to the Italian way of speaking, but lacked the hand gestures and the emotional outbreaks of a typical Italian. I also didn't see that Italian flavour in Derek Wilczak (Dr Carelli).

Dick Pugh (Sir Claud Amory) was quite good; his projection and delivery were crystal-clear. Gaye Le Page (Caroline Amory) fit her role to the T, as the old, chatty English lady. Jim Harrison (Tredwell) fit right into the butler's role, and Keith Barry (Richard Amory) was satsifactory, as was D. B. Reynolds (Dr. Graham). I liked the perky, enthusiastic portrayal of Michal Q. Adams (Captain Hastings). In the case of Alison Tohill (Miss Raynor), I felt she needed to be more cold-blooded despite her apparent homeliness. Ken Swan (Inspector Japp) came in cold, mumbling his lines, but as the play progressed, started picking up.

Director Catherine Morrison did quite a good job with this production. Congratulations to the set designer, Dave Carroll, and costume designer, Paula Preston, for the elegant set and period costumes. This is the 414th production of Metro Theatre, and I'm looking forward to still being around to review its 1,000th production.

2006 Ed Farolan