Monday, 8 July 2013
A Mysterious Affair at Styal
Styal is a village in Cheshire where you can find one of the National Trust's great gems, Quarry Bank Mill, a wonderfully preserved and historically very important slice of Britain's industrial heritage in truly beautiful surroundings. Quarry Bank has been developed steadily in recent years,and not so long ago the garden of the old house was opened to the public. And on Saturday night, for the first time, I saw a play staged in those gardens in the open air - Agatha Christie's The Hollow.
It's a very long time since I watched a play in the open. The last one, a Noel Coward play, was well over twenty years ago. Of course, the weather is always a bit of a worry. But the weather on Saturday evening was superb, a real stroke of luck. And this, coupled with a pre-play picnic, made for a lovely way to end a great day that had begun with a trip around Blackpool's Stanley Park.
Strangely, this was the third Agatha Christie play I've seen in about three months, after not having seen one for many years. They have all been fun, even though I'm the first to admit that she was not as gifted at writing for the stage as she was at writing novels. But a large audience had a great time, not just because of the sunshine, but because Christie knew how to keep people engaged. The performances by members of the Wilmslow Green Room were very good, and I was pleased to recognise at least one of the actors who recently appeared in my own Victorian murder mystery.
The Hollow has never been one of my favourite Christie novels, I must confess. The plot, and the final twist, have never struck me as matching her best. But some of the characters are quite interesting, as is her decision to dispense with Poirot in the stage version of the story. I think that was a shrewd move, and the result was a piece of light entertainment that made for an idyllic midsummer's evening.