AKHNATON review. Historical play by Agatha Christie. Directed by Philippe Pringiers. Set CJ Opperman. Costumes Pilar Pringiers. Lighting Gary Fargher. Presented by Muizenberg Dramatic Society MADS. At The Masque Theatre. The show is postponed to a later date.

Lindsay Keay as Nezzemut, CJ Opperman as Horemheb, Pilar Pringiers as Queen Tyi in Akhnaton
Lindsay Keay as Nezzemut, CJ Opperman as Horemheb, Pilar Pringiers as Queen Tyi in Akhnaton

SHEILA CHISHOLM reviews

Egypt, once power house of the ancient world, is where Agatha Christie centres this three-act historical drama. Of Shakespearian breadth in its soliloquies, Christie wrote Akhnaton in 1937 out of her longstanding personal interest in all things Egyptian.

Spanning 15 years, the three-hour play represents Christie’s carefully researched understanding of how Akhnaton, the young pacificist pharaoh-in-waiting (Chelsea van Coller), intends ruling Egypt on his ascension.

Starting in No Amon (Thebes) in the year 1351 BC, van Coller spoke passionately to his beautiful young wife Nefertiti (Amber Charman) and childhood friend Horemheb (CJ Opperman) how, upon succeeding his aged father Amenhotep 111 (9th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty), he could unite his people.

That he would achieve by razing all Egypt’s temples and destroying all gods excepting Aton. Aton the sun god, would then spread his warm rays over the entire land instilling love, harmony and peace, forever eliminating hunger, corruption and political friction.

Gary Green in Muizenberg Dramatic Society's Akhnaton
Gary Green in Muizenberg Dramatic Society’s Akhnaton

A weighty work 

To his detriment and ultimate downfall, Akhnaton (Gary Green), now a sick, mentally frail ruler, failed to grasp the depth of his High Priest Meriptah’s (Richard Higgs) graft, nor how Meriptah influenced Horemheb, elevated to the army’s general, to turn against him.

Director Philippe Pringiers is noted for tackling unusual plays. Akhnaton fits that bill. Set in 1350 BCE against Opperman’s Luxor prototype pillars, Akhnaton is a weighty work not couched in typical Christie Hercules Poirot/Jane Marple murder mystery format.

Oh! a murder does indeed take place. But there is no mystery attached to whom the murderer is or why the victim died. The death could be foreseen from the very beginning. With this in mind, had Pringiers undertaken a few judicious cuts of overly long, repetitive, passages, time spent rehearsing would have afforded time to develop more realistic, less stilted characterisations.

Not that everyone wasn’t word perfect. They were exceptionally well-prepared, not a missed cue detected from the 24 performers.

However it was left to Higgs to lead the team with an authentic interpretation of an evil manipulative High Priest.

Akhnaton will appeal to Egyptologists, of which many live in this city.

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What: MADS Agatha Christie Akhnaton review
When: Postponed to a later date.
Where: The Masque Theatre
Tickets: www.computicket.co.za
WS