GO BACK FOR MURDER

Genesian Theatre

22 August – 3 October

Play by Agatha Christie

Directed by Michael Hemming

Cast: Tamryn Liddell, David Hopkins, Paul Barbary, Dereck Cameron, John-Paul Santucci, Clancy Carraway, Dominique Purdue, Cassady Maddox, Louis Emerson-Chase & Denise Kitching

Synopsis

Carla’s mother went down for poisoning her philandering husband and died in jail, but a letter she left insists on her innocence. With the assistance of solicitor Justin Fogg, who followed the case closely, Carla aims to interrogate the five other people present when the crime was committed 20 years previously, and learn the truth… A brilliant edge of your seat Agatha Christie whodunnit!

Review

What an extraordinary experience it is to go to the Genesian Theatre and watch a show. I must admit that though I have heard much about this quaint and historical company and church-turned-theatre delight, I had not yet seen a production there. I was pleasantly faced with (but not surprised, the Genesian have a strong committed audience) to find a hoard of chatty patrons spilling out of the tiny foyer as I turned from George St into Kent. As I neared and veered my way up the steps and past mingling rosey faced patrons, I couldn’t have been happier with the organic natural feel and tone the space represents. That old church smell, the worn but lush theatre style red carpet and the tucked away wee box office had me nostalgically miss London and the tucked away West-End theatres that maintain a similar vibe. It was like a warm hug to which I hugged back with smiles to whom ever would take one from me. A few elderly patrons looked at me quite suspiciously as I floated around in my happy-place bubble looking at every nook and cranny of this Sydney diamond of a space. The Genesian feels like home, it’s like going to Grandma’s house for afternoon tea. Not many, actually not any other theatre that I have been to can match that respectful and natural warmth that the Genesian as an institution brings naturally. Making my way up to my seat in the quaint 4-5 row dress circle, feeling at home, and in my element I was ready for an Agatha Christie like no other!

So the production, a classic whodunnit, what’s not to like? Growing up watching re runs of Angela Lansbury’s ‘Murder She Wrote’ and the novel’s of Christie in abundance in every old book store I often find myself in, glossing this brilliant authors murder mystery collection with my finger tips. I found it a real thrill to get to see one of her productions. It’s not particularly fashionable to put on a classic old school detective murder mystery these days, so it makes my experience to see ‘Go Back For Murder’ a real treat.

Director Michael Hemming, did a fine job along with set designer Garry Bates in constructing a simple, versatile, uncomplicated design that functioned purposefully for this piece. The simplest adjustment of props, set and lighting gave us a clear view on time, place and setting. This play has several location changes, which could easily be grossly elaborate in era and style without need or overly thought through and confusing. Bates and Hemming gave careful consideration to the bare minimum requirements this production needed to ensure the story was clear and driven by performance and not fussy sets or props. Hemming had lighting states that gave the piece some light and shade during flashback dialogue for characters which assisted the shape of the piece quite nicely. A simple, unpretentious theatrical state which worked in their favour.

This production had a reasonable sized cast with a few actors doubling up on roles, and a few having smaller parts to play. I was particularly impressed by David Hopkins who played young lawyer Justin Fogg. Hopkins gave a tremendous performance in mannerisms and diction alike. I found his acting method beautifully naturalistic with a great sense of character embodiment. I continuously found myself observing his craft even when he was not the actor delivering at the time, keeping his character in check even when not in the spotlight. Hopkins holds a mature way about him in his physical language, his vast training has served him well. Hopkins held his English accent flawlessly which was certainly not the case for majority of his fellow cast members. He was a joy to watch, believable and captivating from start to finish. The other stand outs for the evening were Denise Kitching who played hilariously absurdist character Miss Williams, Kitching provided the audience with comedic relief throwing exaggeration into the theatrical wind, which swirled around the theatre tickling patrons pink as it boomeranged back to her with pizazz. Kitching is a charming performer who gave her character flare and cheekyness that made her presence on stage much liked and embraced. A fine performer in every sense of the word, a true delight to witness. Cassady Maddox, who played both the child and grown woman characters of Angela Warren, providing a fine, well structured performance giving her character mystery and likeability in her gesture and all round delivery of character. Super engaging to witness on stage.

In regards to casting as a whole some of Hemmings choices were spot on and others had me counting my fingers to calculate the age of these characters whose actors seemed far to young for the voices that came from them. I do think, the casting for majority of the characters was a stretch. Most certainly when it came to the friends of murder victim Amyas Crale. Though I understand that the second act consists of flash backs to 16 years prior, making for much younger characters, majority of the cast did not pull off the age brackets they were meant to be portraying making for often awkward displays of young people pretending to be older people. There was a lack of physical adjustment that could have been considered more thoughtfully to give the audience a stronger understanding of character, making their performances a bit naff and forced. There were actors who gave nod worthy delivery in dialogue such as Dereck Cameron as Southern jock Jeff Rodgers, but whose physical language was confusing and over the top, the same attributes unfortunately exuded from lead Tamrynn Liddell who was much more believable as Caroline Crale than Crales daughter Carla Le Marchant whose constant hand-on-hip posing throughout the production was an irritation almost unbearable. One too many Bette Davis movie influences perhaps, or directors notes, I am not to know, but a blocking choice none the less that did nothing for her or her character. Liddell’s performance as Crale was much more palatable, though costume changes in the second act were clearly an issue, Liddell held her own as Crale, but failed to captivate or create any empathy or immersive embodiment in the character of Le Marchant.

Overall this production was an enjoyable one that kept true to the classic feel and elements of a Christie production with I can imagine on a tight independent budget. A production with a good sized cast whom collectively gave a performance much loved by their audience that had the foyer buzzing post show. If you love a good murder mystery you are sure to enjoy your time at the Genesian for ‘Go Back For Murder’. 

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