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Workington Playgoers become the first British amateurs to perform three classic Agatha Christie radio plays

Cast in rehearsal, L-R: Ian Quirk, Pam Hayes, Jane Douglas, James Last, Liz Chapman. Photo by Chris Lewis Photography (www.chrislewisphoto.co.uk)

The Workington Playgoers are very excited about their next production, which required special permission from Agatha Christie’s estate and the famous theatrical publisher Samuel French Ltd.

One of the directors, Jenni Rushton, says: ‘A few years ago, I came across a professional production called Murder on Air, which was a staging of three Agatha Christie radio plays, performed as if they were being transmitted from a BBC studio in the 1950s. The cast was led by Tom Conti and Jenny Seagrove and they were all immaculately dressed in formal evening wear, as was the custom at the time. Within the small confines of an imaginary studio, they used only spoken words and actions to recreate a cocktail party, a railway station, many telephone calls and a dinner at a smart nightclub. I thought this would make a wonderful show at the Theatre Royal and, after much negotiation between myself and Agatha Christie Ltd, they agreed to ask Samuel French to issue Workington Playgoers with a licence to perform Murder in the Studio, consisting of three short plays: ‘Personal Call’, ‘Butter in a Lordly Dish’ and ‘Yellow Iris’. For our production, the cast is made up of new members, very experienced members and members I have prised out of retirement!’

Jenni’s fellow director Keith Beattie comments: ‘Mention Agatha Christie to most people and she conjures up mystery and intrigue. For the cast of Murder in the Studio she has challenged them to acquire new skills and approaches to acting. They have to use their voices and facial expressions to bring their characters to life and make their audience believe that they are listening to a radio broadcast. All through the three short plays, the cast work very hard to spin a web of intrigue in true “who done it” fashion.’

Agatha Christie was a member of the Detection Club, founded in 1930 by a group of leading detective novelists. The prime mover was Anthony Berkeley and other founder members included Dorothy L. Sayers and Freeman Wills Crofts. It is the oldest and most august society of crime writers in the world. Members are elected by secret ballot and there is an ‘initiation ceremony’ which involves the taking of an oath, the wording of which has varied over the years.

The Original Detection Club Oath

Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them, using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on, nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo-Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence or the Act of God? I do.

Do you solemnly swear never to conceal a vital clue from the reader? I do.

Do you promise to observe a seemly moderation in the use of Gangs, Conspiracies, Death-Rays, Ghosts, Hypnotism, Trap-Doors, Chinamen, Super-Criminals and Lunatics; and utterly and forever to forswear Mysterious Poisons unknown to Science. I do.

Will you honour the King’s English? I will.

Murder in the Studio will be on at the Theatre Royal, Workington, from Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th October at 7.30 pm. Tickets (£11.50 and £10.50 concessions) are available on the door or via the Playgoers website. The box office is open between 6.45pm and 7.30pm every Monday and Wednesday.

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