The Mirror Crack’d
I have to start this review by pointing out that I am not usually a frequent visitor of the theatre if it’s not for a musical. I know this might make me sound very mainstream in the theatre world, but as a whole I’m not too keen on dance shows or straight plays.
However, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy the play The Mirror Crack’d at the New Theatre in Cardiff.
The Mirror Crack’d is the first stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, and in spite of the multiple film and television versions, this was its first stage version in the English language.
Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and directed by Melly Still, The Mirror Crack’d was brilliantly captivating and thoroughly enjoyable.
The cast is led by Susie Blake as Miss Marple and Simon Shepherd as Dermot Craddock. Susie Blake plays a wonderful Miss Marple who is innocent and welcoming, as well as sharp and witty. Her comedic timing is second to none, bringing a breath of fresh air to a classic British show. Simon Shepherd is less warm as the Chief Inspector (a title he likes to remind us of), but holds a sense of authority on stage as he should.
The ensemble cast are very strong, and I can’t quite work out who stood out for me without listing nearly everyone. Huw Parmenter as loyal butler Giuseppe Renzo was superb and engaging, Gillian Saker as Hollywood actress Lola Brewster was eye catching and owned the stage, Katie Matsell as diligent home-assistant to Miss Marple Cherry Baker was humorous and light, and Julia Hills as Marple’s best friend Dolly Bantry was brilliantly funny.
While the acting was generally great, the accents were less so. I am still unsure whether character Marina Gregg played by Suzanna Hamilton was supposed to be British or American, as her accent flicked between the two, and Davina Moon as secretary Ella Zielinsky had a similar issue.
As well as not being a frequent visitor of plays, murder mystery stories are also not usually my genre of choice. However, throughout the entire of the first act I was practically on the edge of my seat, intrigued to know more and try to solve the case for myself.
The Mirror Crack’d is heavily focused on memory, and how each of us remembers things slightly differently. As we dive into different character’s memories, the actors retrace their steps and very clearly present a new perspective. The combination here of the lighting, direction and sound made it transparent what was going on and I was able to follow the story without an issue.
The set design is also a highlight of this wonderful production. With clever lighting and a wonderful backdrop, actors are able to walk behind what can be described as a fuzzy screen, so we can constantly see shadows lurking in the distance, increasing the intensity and angst of the production, heightening emotion and anticipation.
Some very relevant topical themes are woven into this classic murder mystery, with comments on generational differences, class, changing social attitudes and loneliness – to name the major themes. Miss Marple challenges social convention because it is the “little old lady” who cracks the case, defying potential gender and age stereotypes. Dolly Bantry’s disregard of Cherry Baker for being from “the development”, and the use of accent additionally made for a particularly striking comment on class.
During the interval, myself and others around me all had different suspicions of whodunnit, and potentially more importantly, WHYdunnit, and surely this is the best compliment a murder mystery story can receive? If we had all suspected the correct killer, or indeed all suspected the same red herrings, this would have been totally boring. Instead, so much was weaved in, there was no knowing who the murderer was, which was brilliant.
Without revealing any spoilers, the murderer and motive were both understandable and well-explained. One issue I had with the production was that after the killer and motive had been revealed, the show carried on for what felt like a long time. It made the production feel a little dragged out and they could have shaved 10 minutes off the ending, I’m sure.
Some aspects of the production were a little out of place and didn’t seem to fit with the rest of it, or at least didn’t make sense. The opening with a strange dance number (obviously Miss Marple’s dream) was confusing and unnecessary, and the ending of Act 1 also left me puzzled.
Other than these slight critiques, The Mirror Crack’d was a thoroughly enjoyable performance, and whether you are a murder mystery fanatic or not, I would highly recommend this production.