From the moment we enter the theatre, the understatedly genteel set places us in the nineteen fifties. As does the permed hair, the period dresses, waist-coats, knitted pullovers and cardigans. The audience member who came in silk jacket and waxed moustache must have felt quite at home.
"Nothing happens here" one of the characters says. But we know differently. That is why we came.
Bunny, the dippy and probably demented companion of the potential heiress and murder target, Letiticia, finds in the local paper that a murder has been announced, to take place at six thirty that day. Let the action begin.
To say that the plot is convoluted is significantly to understate. Bodies (tastefully bloodless) begin to fall to the floor – one of them in pitch darkness. And the character of Miss Marple begins to emerge. Initially patronised by the Detective Inspector, diminutive and self-effacing, she comes effortlessly to dominate the stage, leading up to the scene where step by step she unmasks the murderer. Judi Farr's Miss Marple is the stand-out performance. Robert Grubb is an excellent Inspector – not a fool, but no match for Miss Marple.
A couple of parts which play awkwardly in today's world are Deidre Rubenstein's Bunny, where dementia is played for laughs, and Victoria Haralabidou as Mitzi, where the other cast members see her role as a refugee from Stalin as a butt for humour. In fairness, Bunny plays the part with gentle humour, and is treated with great affection, and Victoria's revenge is to throw herself into the part with manic energy, stealing nearly every scene she is in.
Debra Lawrence is superb as the elegant heiress and apparent murder target.
After a slow start, the action takes off in the second half, to the point where we are being left behind, and we really do not need yet another denouement, or to find that yet another character is not as they seem.
This is a wordy play, clunky in parts. And yet the audience is well served by an excellent cast, and the warm and enthusiastic applause at the end suggested that they felt that they had engaged with Agatha Christie's formulaic time-warp, and had enjoyed trying to work out "who dun it".