WHEN it comes to whodunnits, Agatha Christie’s The Hollow is a real classic, an old warhorse of a play with an archetypal country weekend party setting, aristocratic family with poor relations, faithful old retainers and chippy young staff and a victim who pretty much gets what’s coming to …
It is quite dated, rather sexist, distinctly class-conscious and very much of its time. But it is also cleverly plotted, well-paced and works on that tried and tested formula, reiterated by the Scotland Yard detective Insp Colquhoun (Alan Morris in this production by Yeovil’s talented Swan Theatre), that the obvious suspect often turns out to be the murderer.
But not, of course, before blood has been spilled, several red herrings have been landed and a great deal of dirty laundry has been aired in the sitting room of The Hollow, the home of retired Raj provincial governor, Sir Henry Angkatell (Roger Chadbourne) and his kindly but snobbish wife, Lucy (Mary Buckle), who is the dotty side of eccentric.
The setting (congratulations to the set design and construction team) is a large comfortable room, with a roaring fire, and doors leading to the kitchen, Sir Henry’s office, guest rooms and through French doors to a conservatory and hence to the garden.
As the curtain rises, Sir Henry and his wife and their sculptor cousin Henrietta (Alison Maynard-Griffin) await the arrival of the guests – Edward Angkatell (an impressive debut for Bradley Barlow), a cousin who lives in the family’s ancestral home, Ainswick (this unseen house is virtually a character in its own right), an impoverished young cousin, Midge (Erin Darling-Finan) who works in a Regents Street dress shop, Dr John Christow, a successful London consultant (Peter Fernandez managing both the domineering sexist husband and the full-on charming lover), and his needy wife Gerda (AmieClaire Margetts).
The family butler Gudgeon (Mike Stanley), still with his feet firmly in pre-war days, has to contend not only with the complicated lives of his employers and their relations, but the cheeky new maid Doris (Grace Pamplin).
Into this melange of 1950s society comes film star Veronica Craye (an impressive Swan debut for Sheenu Das), who is a former lover of Dr Christow, and the two policemen – the suave Scotland Yard detective and his country plod, Sgt Penny (Ethan Taylor). All play their part in a country house weekend that turns very nasty indeed.
With well-paced direction from Richard Jones, the cast admirably capture that slightly uncomfortable post-war atmosphere – it may be a period piece, but it’s great fun. And great news, too, that the week-long run is sold out. Yeovil and the surrounding area are lucky to have this talented company.
Pictured: Henrietta (Alison Maynard-Griffin) with Dr John Christow (Peter Fernandez)