REVIEW: LOVE FROM A STRANGER (Royal & Derngate) ★★★

There’s no doubt that Agatha Christie is one of the great crime writers of the 20th century. She weaves a tale of intrigue and mystery, with twists and turns that shock and confuse even the most dedicated amateur detective. Yet she is also a master playwright, successfully taking her suspense from page to stage.

Far less well known than The Mousetrap, Love From A Stranger (adapted by Frank Vosper in 1936 from Christie’s Philomel Cottage and directed by Lucy Bailey) isn’t a simple case of ‘Whodunnit?’.

Cecily (Helen Bradbury) is awaiting the return of her fiancé Michael (Justin Avoth), who she hasn’t seen in three years. However, she’s just won £25,000 and her suppressed desire for adventure is starting to get the better of her. When Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum) enters her life, spontaneity wins and she uproots her life and switches her role from borderline spinster to lovesick teenager. But is Bruce all he seems?

Of course not. And there’s never any doubt that he’s a strange chap, snapping photos in her bedroom and lugging around a mysterious box that will go in his ‘dark room’ aka the cellar of their isolated cottage… what could possibly go wrong?

There are plot twists, creepy music and dramatic lighting enough to satisfy anyone with a love of a cheap thrill, but the overall production feels slightly amateur in places. The shifting stage offers an alternative perspective, but the acting is never quite strong enough and at times the lack of chemistry renders the characters as barely believable.

That said, it is enjoyable (although the original language feels slightly out of place in a more modern setting) and there are several comic moments, provided mainly by the ‘locals’ (Molly Logan and Gareth Williams).

It’s not Agatha Christie at her finest, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes


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