REVIEW: Murder, Marple and Me, Customs House, South Shields

Janet Prince as Margeret Rutherford
Janet Prince as Margeret Rutherford
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THREE national treasures, a trio of top talent, two dames and one hour of engaging entertainment.

Murder, Marple and Me tells the story of how Dame Margaret Rutherford landed the role of Dame Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple – and how it nearly didn’t happen.

Janet Price plays both the author and the actress, as well as the much-loved character herself, flitting neatly and cleverly between parts.

Written by Philip Meeks and directed by Stella Duffy, the play is packs in humour, emotional drama and a grim true-life murder from Rutherford’s own life.

The actress’s father, who suffered from mental health problems, murdered his own father with a chamber pot in a guest house.

It is the uncovering of this gruesome tale which gives the play an intrigue and suspense of its own, mirroring the grizzly murders investigated by Miss Marple. Rutherford’s own mental health problems, including electric shock treatment and time spent in mental hospitals, kept secret during her life, are also dealt with in the play.

But the play is also wit-heavy, providing as much laughter as it does suspense.

The production is all crammed into one hour and 10 minutes without an interval, but there was no watch-glancing or longing for an ice cream – and neither did I feel unsatisfied when it came to an end.

Murder, Marple and Me was a sell-out hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is one a number of theatrical nuggets which find their way to the Customs House stage.

Set by the river and surrounded by cobbles, the theatre is the perfect venue for quirky, small-scale gems such as this and the atmosphere definitely adds to the experience.