Thursday 3 December 2009

Fiddlers Five (or Three)

Agatha Christie was not just the best-selling novelist of all time. She also achieved, among other things, extraordinary success as a playwright. Some of her plays were based on novels, or short stories, while others were originated for the stage.

Her final play was written for the theatre, and it has a special significance for me. As my 16th birthday approached, my parents discovered that a new Christie play was to be performed in Manchester. And because they knew of my passion for Christie, I was therefore taken to the Palace Theatre to see it as a birthday treat.

The play was called Fiddlers Five. It starred Colin Bean, best known as Private Sponge, a supporting character from ‘Dad’s Army’ and nobody else of any note at all, so far as I can remember. I was rather baffled by the play. It seemed to be intended to be a sort of comedy, and the mystery complications took ages to develop. I enjoyed the experience, but it was not a great play with a great plot, and that was a surprise and a disappointment.

I wasn’t alone in my dubious reaction. In fact, most critics were less kind. Christie re-wrote the play as Fiddlers Three, but it doesn’t seem to have effected much of an improvement. It never reached the West End. John Curran devotes some space to Christie’s planning of the play in Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks and it seems she started work on it as early as 1958. But he is right to describe it as ‘a sad curtain call’. Apparently, it’s never even been published.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I guess even the very best writers have an off-project.

Nice of your parents to think of such a special treat for you for a special birthday.

Sounds like your reviewing skills were sharp, even back then!

Mystery Writing is Murder

seana graham said...

The fact that even the great Christie didn't nail it every single time should be a kind of encouragements for all writers.

Dorte H said...

How thoughtful of your parents, but it is a pity the play wasn´t better.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. I guess it's something that I'm one of the few people who ever got to see 'Fiddlers Five'!

Anonymous said...

Martin - I think you're right that very few people have seen that play. I know that I never have. I'd like to read it, though. I think I'm going to try to find a copy. Even at less than her best, Christie remains a crime-fiction luminary; her weakest work is still better than some other writers' best, in my opinion.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Margot. It's a pity that, 38 years on, I just can't rememember much about the story-line of the play. It was certainly untypical Christie, and the later part was better than the earlier part. I am really surprised nobody has ever published it.