Thursday 18th April

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Black Coffee @ Richmond Theatre

| Comedy, Theatre | 12/02/2014

Black Coffee 001
Rating:

Showing until February 15, 2014 // Bill Kenwright by special arrangement with Agatha Christie Theatre Company

Joe Harmston’s production of Agatha Christie’s ‘Black Coffee’ at Richmond Theatre is better than a caffeine shot. The exquisite Art Deco set by Simon Scullion seems to the manor born and likewise the magnificent Liza Goddard as Aunt Caroline establishes herself early on as a star of the show. Robert Powell slips into the lead of the renowned Belgian detective effortlessly and gracefully. For the duration one quite forgets about Ustinov or Suchet. The dim Englishness of Poirot’s compatriot Hastings, ennobled by Robin McCallum’s delicately mannered performance, provides an ideal foil. And as usual with Christie there’s more going on than first appears. Even a dusty shelf proves not just a matter of housekeeping; Hercule referencing himself to a housemaid exploring “all the dark corners with her broom…”

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Eric Carte, Robert Powell, Robin McCallum

Powell seems simply to enjoy his role as does the rest of this top-drawer troupe benefiting a tremendous piece of theatre peppered with great comedic moments. Christie delights in teasing at social stereotypes, though always holding-back, and the effect remains cringingly funny. The humour is cranked-up in Act 3 as Inspector Japp finally arrives on scene – Eric Carte (or is that Ric Recate?) pulling-off a double role wholly convincingly. The play is topped-up with many delightful characterisations including Gary Mavers’ terrific turn as the swarthy Italian doctor, balanced by the pure and affecting drama of Olivia Mace as Lucia who is ably supported by long-suffering husband Ben Nealon.

But of course it’s the brilliant Poirot who holds all the strings. As does Robert Powell, as is expected. Powell accommodates Christie’s sparkling wit with finesse: the comment “I think I’ve played my part rather well!” following Poirot’s own showpiece at close met with a collective rasp of agreement.

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