(Role: Oliver Costello. Ran January 18th - 1st February 1960)
Turning again from acting to producing, Robert Maraden proves to have made a generally good job of the lengthy Agatha Christie whodunit, The Spider's Web, at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.
I thought the first act, where guests in the Kentish home of a Foreign Office diplomat have to set the scene for the subsequent murder, at first rather formidably heavy; but then, the light drawing-room comedy style rarely brings out the best in Mrs Christie. Give her a murder with a corpse, and the chance of laying red herrings by the dozen, and she is happy.
The Spider's Web is better, theatrically, than many of her plays. The audience watches the crime enacted on a darkened stage yet does not see the murderer. There are some astonishing revelations of true identity and character saved up until the last few minutes.
The play develops, also, a fair amount of comedy, some perhaps a little macabre, which I thought the Belgrade company carried off extremely well.
It has drugs, policemen, a swinging panel hiding a secret chamber (I'm not being unfair; we learn of it in the first few minutes), messages in invisible ink, and even a top-level international incident a-brewing. Not surprisingly, it lasts for almost three hours.
Cherry Morris, after sharing the general slow start, blossoms into another of her delightfully vague but charming wives, concerned mainly to prevent the unpleasantness of a corpse on her drawing room carpet from marring her husband's career. Patrick O'Connell and especially Charles Kay, provide ancient guests astute and simple, and George Pensotti a young one of beguiling manner.
The Birmingham Post, 19.1.60.
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