By Agatha Christie
17th - 22nd May, 2010
Clarissa, the second wife of Henry Hailsham-Brown, is adept at spinning tales of adventure but, when a murder takes place in her own drawing-room, she finds live drama much harder to cope with, especially as she suspects the murderer might be her young step-daughter Pippa. Moreover, Henry will shortly be arriving home with a V.I.P in tow who might take a dim view of bodies in the drawing room. Clarissaís fast talking only gets her and Pippa into some hair-raising experiences.
Having your play sandwiched between the wonderful, heart-warming A Month of Sundays and the enduring nostalgia of Dadís Army is not an enviable situation for a director to be in, but if you need help, then surely Agatha Christie is your woman. I suppose most people associate her with the art deco 1930s, largely due to the long running TV series featuring the excellent David Suchet. Her output spanned the decades though, and tonightís play was written in 1954, at a time (just) when families had butlers and before the coming of rock and roll set in motion a huge social revolution. Since Roger Bannister is mentioned in the script, we surmise also that the play came after the first sub four-minute mile!
Spiderís Web doesnít have any of Christieís well-known sleuths, but it is well-stocked with gifted amateurs and plodding professionals and the attraction is not so much in guessing whodunit as in observing the after effects of the crime on those unlucky enough to have an inconvenient corpse turn up in the drawing room. There are the usual stock characters: the scatty heroine, the guardian and man of honour, the well-bred young man, the villainous criminal, the eccentric gardener; and overall an undemanding and enjoyable evening is in prospect. I hope it proves to be that way for you.
Iím always surprised at how paths either cross or miss in the theatre. Of tonightís cast, three were in the last play that I directed and I have worked recently with most of the rest. However, eighteen years after my first involvement with BLT, in Theyíre Playing Our Song, Iíve finally met up again with Sam Ball and Peter Hall!