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Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest at Old Mill Theatre

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Theatre on the case with Agatha Christie murder-mystery
Agatha Christie, The Unexpected Guest, Old Mill Theatre, mystery, performing arts, murder, whodunit, stage, acting
Whodunit? Find out in Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest with Kit Leake, left, Jeremy Smith, Ryan Perrin, Wayne Cant and Praveen Hooda, at back, Jackie Oates, Sian Burgess and Davilia O'Connor, at front, and Charlie Young, sitting.


A classic Agatha Christie whodunit is set to deliver a web of intrigue for the Old Mill Theatre's first season of the year. Directed by Joan Scafe, The Unexpected Guest follows a stranger lost in fog, who seeks refuge in a nearby house only to find a man shot dead and his wife standing over him with a smoking gun.

But the woman's dazed confession is anything but convincing so the unexpected guest decides to help. Police clues point to a man who died two years previously but, as the ghosts of a past wrong begin to emerge, a tangled web of lies reveals family secrets and chilling motives where the real murderer turns out to be the greatest mystery of all.

Agatha Christie, The Unexpected Guest, Old Mill Theatre, mystery, performing arts, murder, whodunit, stage, acting
Wayne Cant, left, is Michael Starkwadder, the so-called 'unexpected guest' of the play's title, with Jackie Oates as Laura Warwick.

"Agatha Christie wrote numerous 'whodunit' plays and this is no exception," Joan said. "It's a play from the 1950s and remains in that era so there's no trying to modernise it. It's been some years since I was on stage at the Old Mill Theatre, so my first challenge has been finding my way around."

"I have directed one cast member before while the others I need to work with, getting down to the detail as I see it. It's imperative the cast's work away from rehearsals, such as getting their scripts down, gives us plenty of time to polish the show."

Initially performing while at school in the UK, Joan has more than 40 years' theatre experience in WA after she first took to the stage in a Murdoch University production of The Bacchae at Dolphin Theatre in 1977. She appeared in Melville Theatre's inaugural show Not Now Darling in 1982 and has appeared in a plethora of plays since and was nominated for best actress for her role in Three Tall Women at the 2009 Finley Awards.

Agatha Christie, The Unexpected Guest, Old Mill Theatre, mystery, performing arts, murder, whodunit, stage, acting
Sergeant Cadwallader (Praveen Hooda, left) and Inspector Thomas (Kit Leake) interview man-child Jan Warwick (Charlie Young) in Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest.


A dual role in the Queen and I also earned Joan an award from Playlovers with many people not realising she was playing Princess Margaret as well as a neighbour in slippers and curlers with a cigarette in her mouth. More recently, she has appeared in Calendar Girls at Stirling Theatre and On Golden Pond at Harbour Theatre while also directing several shows at Melville Theatre, where she is a life member and past president.

"The Unexpected Guest came my way under unusual circumstances," Joan said. "The Old Mill Theatre needed a director at short notice because the play was already programmed, so I said I'd step into the breach!"

"I had never read it and had to get auditions done as soon as possible but with seven roles for men, I was concerned. Men are usually in short supply at auditions but we made it and the play was fully cast."

Agatha Christie, The Unexpected Guest, Old Mill Theatre, mystery, performing arts, murder, whodunit, stage, acting
Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest features Sian Burgess as housekeeper Miss Bennett and Davilia O'Connor as Mrs Warwick, the family's matriarch.


Davilia O'Connor plays Mrs Warwick, matriarch of the family under police investigation. "It's one of those lovely parts all those fabulous older British lady actors or dames even shine in," she said. Agatha really seemed to enjoy writing those spirited strong-yet-vulnerable older women."

First acting with Patch Theatre and the Festival of Perth, Davilia went to the UK and gained a wealth of stage experience, also appearing in the TV shows The Bill and Till Death Do Us Part and the 1983 movie Bloodbath at the House of Death and sharing the stage with Tommy Steele in Singin' in the Rain at the London Palladium. When teaching at the WA Academy of Performing Arts in 1992-93 she directed an acclaimed production of the Australian play Bumpy Angels.

Davilia's last big tour was a stage version of Prisoner Cell Block H: The Musical in the UK where she played top dog Bea Smith. Coming back to Perth in 2009, she has mainly done adverts, TV work, voiceovers, short films and the yet-to-be-released feature film The Decadent and Depraved. "The Unexpected Guest appealed because it was a chance to get back on a stage again," Davilia said.

Agatha Christie, The Unexpected Guest, Old Mill Theatre, mystery, performing arts, murder, whodunit, stage, acting
Jeremy Smith, left, as Henry Angell and Ryan Perrin as Julian Farrar in Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest.


Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest plays at 7.30pm February 23, 24, March 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 with 2pm matinees February 25 and March 4. Tickets are $25, $20 concession book at oldmilltheatre.com.au/tickets or call 0475 895 701. The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).

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Why? Plenty of suspense and lots of twists and turns have your sleuthing skills at the ready!
When: 7.30pm February 23, 24, March 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 & 10; 2pm February 25 & March 4
Phone: 0475 895 701
Where: Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth
Cost: $25, $20 concession
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