The Unexpected Guest

by Agatha Christie

14th – 17th October 2009

When a stranger drives into a ditch in thick fog on a country road, he walks to the nearest house for help – only to find a woman standing over the body of her dead husband with a gun in her hand.
It looks like an open and shut murder case, but it soon becomes clear that the dead man’s wife may be covering up for someone – but who?

With a houseful of suspects with both the motive and opportunity to commit the murder, this play will lead you through classic Christie twists and turns before the true culprit is revealed.

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The Cast

Laura Warwick: Tracey Pearce
Michael Starkwedder: Peter Watt
Miss Bennett: Mary Warrington
Jan Warwick: Andy Alexander
Mrs Warwick: Liz Saxton
Henry Angell: Paul Shave
Sergeant Cadwallader: Nick Roberts
Inspector Thomas: Rob Bell
Julian Farrar: Mark Bailey

Produced by Helen Saxton

Newbury Weekly News review

Audience kept guessing at murder most devious

When Agatha Christie’s new play opened in the West End in 1958, it was regarded by many as a second Mousetrap. Although it didn’t fulfil this prophecy, it is nevertheless full of the devious twists for which the author is rightly famous.

It was, therefore, a good choice by the Compton Players and producer Helen Saxton made the most of the opening, with eerie music playing as the curtains drew back to reveal a darkened stage. Torchlight showed glimpses of a figure slumped in a chair and a woman standing statue-still. The torch was held by Michael Starkwedder (where did Agatha get these names?) whose car had broken down and who found himself helping the woman, Laura Warwick, to dispose of the body of husband, Richard.

Who murdered him? The nurse? The troubled teenager? The valet? His mother? The wife’s lover?

In true Christie style, the audience decided on each in turn in a play which never lacked pace. Poirot and Miss Marple obviously being on holiday, the task of finding the killer devolved on Inspector Thomas (Rob Bell carrying out very realistic on-stage phone calls) and Nick Roberts, in a nicely-judged performance as his poetically-minded sergeant.

The Compton Players have a good reputation and this production will do nothing to harm it, with excellent acting, especially from Peter Watt, completely natural in the role of the unexpected guest Michael S.

Tracey Pearce looked right and kept the pace up with slick delivery of lines in the important role of Laura. However, for me, her performance was too understated and I expected more dramatic reactions from her to the traumatic events. The unexpected caller, hubby dead in a chair and the police calling – this is no time to be reserved.

Good performances came from Mary Warrington as the bustling Benny, Paul Shave as a creepy valet and a wonderfully stiff upper-lipped Liz Saxton as Richard’s mother. Andrew Alexander made a successful debut as the troubled Jan and Mark Bailey gave a good impression of Boris Johnson as Laura’s lover.

Eric Saxton’s set was superb, extending well to the offstage glimpses through doorways and giving a most professional setting to this latest Compton Players’ production.

CAROLINE FRANKLIN

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