Guessing the solution of an Agatha Christie murder mystery is as good as a stab in the dark (excuse the pun) but entertaining nonetheless, as the Genesian Theatre Company proves with its latest production, The Secret Of Chimneys.
An aristocratic family, an ingenue, a dubious stranger, a pedantic investigator, a comical butler – these are some of Agatha Christie’s stock characters and they’re all here.
The Secret Of Chimneys is not an exposé about smokestacks, but rather a delightful whodunnit set in a house on an estate called ‘Chimneys’. If you’re not familiar with the play it’s because it disappeared for a period of time before resurfacing again later without explanation (just like Agatha Christie herself).
Set in England during the jazz era, the action takes place exclusively in what is referred to as the ‘council chambers’ – a formal room that adjoins the library and has direct access to the garden. The plot, of course, twists like a pretzel. It involves a brilliant gem thief known at King Victor, a revealing manuscript that’s about to be published, blackmail, hidden diamonds, love, deception, an oil deal, murder – and a constantly frustrated attempt to just play some golf!
Sumptuous sets and costumes with attention to detail are a signature of Genesian Theatre productions, and this play is certainly no exception. The room is furnished with two armchairs, a small bureau, a fireplace, two coats-of-arms and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I sitting above the fireplace looking over the entire scene. To the left are glass French doors leading to the garden; to the right is a doorway presumedly leading to the front room of the house; and at the back, right, is a doorway leading to the library. (Are you starting to imagine a Cluedo board?)
Apart from being authentic to period, the costumes are stylish and well designed, and augement the personality of the characters.
Mood and period are immediately established as you enter the theatre, with a selection of 1920s jazzy tunes playing in the background.
Performances overall are very good, with actors really owning their characters. Genesian royalty, Sandra Bass, is wonderful as the slightly put-out Lady Caterham. Patrick Tangye just borders on obnoxious as the sometimes smug if charming and clever Anthony Cade. Abbie Love is endearing as the naïve, excitable Billie. Victor Moore as the anxious deal maker, George Lomax, is reminiscent of the straight man characters of classic old time sitcoms.
The entire cast works beautifully together to create a charming piece of classic theatre.
The Secret of Chimneys plays the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent Street, Sydney, until Saturday, April 17, at 7.30pm Fridays and Saturdays, with 3pm Saturday matinées (10 and 17 April) and 4.30pm Sunday matinées. For tickets ($30-$35) and further info, visit www.genesiantheatre.com.au.