THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD. Director Stephen Fourie’s absurd contemporary re-writing of Agatha Christie’s iconic 1926 novel. Dramaturg: Faeron Wheeler. Foley Designer: Richard Whittaker. Sets: Robyn Theron. Set (surprise, surprise) Destroyer: Simon Dutton. Set Construction: Daniel Enticott. Costumes: Marna Wright. Lighting: Gary Fargher/Gail Duguid Fargher. Sound: Gary Fargher/Stephen Fourie. Presented by Cape Town Theatre Company. Masque Theatre.
SHEILA CHISHOLM attended the VIP evening
If on entering the auditorium, you asked “what on earth is happening?” it would be a legitimate question. What’s going on are ‘stage hands’ moving furniture hither and thither Gradually we notice a grey-haired, jeans-clad woman (Linda Steele as Laura the stage manager), fussing about arranging extra-ordinary bits and pieces on a table downstage, audience right. There is a bicycle wheel frame, lunch boxes, booze, as well as unidentifiable clutter.
The split level stage, set with wallpapered panels, a high paned window looking onto woodlands, and numerous arches strike a sinister Shakespearian atmosphere, which is entirely appropriate when flamboyant, pillar of the community Roger Ackroyd (Jason Bailey) is found murdered.
Earlier it dawned that the afore mentioned helter-skeltering is director Stephen Fourie’s way of introducing his tongue-in-cheek take on Agatha Christies iconic 1926 novel. While keeping the essence of Christie’s story, Fourie has crafted his script and cast into colourful, humourous, caricatures. Thus we accept grandiose gestures, and melodramatic speeches are deliberate. Congratulations Stephen for holding your well-chosen cast in check.
All too easily, in response to laughter, thespians can slip into realms beyond acceptable absurdity. Fourie cast tall, slim Darren Moore as Christie’s 5′ 4″ rotund Hercule Poirot. Costume designer Marna Wright dressed the fastidious Poirot in a Sherlock Holmes tweed cloak, cape and waistcoat. Poirot’s characteristic moustache isn’t well groomed, but Moore’s attempt at Poirot’s French/Belgian accent is most commendable. In lengthy word-perfect soliloquy he postulates who murdered dear Roger Ackroyd. This however proves to be the first time his ‘little grey cells’ malfunction. Bernie Jacobs as Moira the director as Dr Sheppard takes over the role of narrator. Wearing men’s clothes, in grande ‘prima donna’ style he/she explains why he/she suspects blackmail, suicide and a love triangle are behind Ackroyd’s murder. But are they?
First class comedy
Yanou Pienaar plays Mrs Ackroyd. She flaps around in her beige picture hat whose brim enlarges with her every entrance. Rosemary Wilke is Mrs Parker, Ackroyd’s housekeeper who knows all the household’s secrets. Tara Lee is Flora Ackroyd, Mrs Ackroyd’s daughter. At her Uncle Roger’s behest she’s engaged to Ralph Paton (Kabo Mokhathi) who, unbeknown to her is married to Ursula Bourne (Alex Silberbauer). Last members of the Ackroyd menagerie are Major Hector Blunt (David-John Tempelton), a none too bright military man who can’t quite throw off his army garb. His is a brilliant characterisation.
Geoffrey Raymond (Saen Black) Ackroyd’s efficient secretary, keeps himself quietly in the background. Not so Jean Wilke. She plays Constable Davis as a typical English constable, always with note-book at the ready. Linda Steele as stage manager Laura kept the gang in order. However, evening honours to Linda for ‘spot on cuing’ of Richard Whittaker’s ingenious Foley (sound) designs.
Murder isn’t fun, but Stephen Fourie and cast turn The Murder of Roger Ackroyd into first class comedy. Don’t miss out on a good laugh.
What: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Where and when: Masque theatre until 18 November 2023