Saturday 16 November 2013

The Escape Artist - and Poirot's Last Case

The Escape Artist, starring David Tennant, came to an end in the same week as Agatha Christie's Poirot. Tennant and that other great David are two marvellous actors, but you'd think that there was a world of difference between the modern legal thriller and Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. However, I'm not so sure.

Both stories focused on the issue of whether murder can ever be justified. Tennant's character used his legal skills to escape justice while Poirot relied on a crafty locked rooms scenario. But they were both faced with an adversary whom the conventional legal system could not bring to justice - so they were forced to consider how best justice could be done, and they acted accordingly.

Of course, Agatha Christie's Poirot is regarded as ultra-cosy, while The Escape Artist included some fairly grim scenes. But I have to say that, overall, I wasn't sure that The Escape Artist was any more believable than Curtain. The first episode was gripping and pretty credible, but as the plot thickened, there were some increasingly unlikely twists. One or two of these jarred because of the apparent realism of the basic scenario.

I enjoyed both shows, but I think a comparison of their similarities shows that some of  Christie's storylines aren't as remote from present day writers' concerns as many people may think. And one might argue that the essential artificiality of the classic whodunit form means that the use of coincidence and the improbable can, in some cases, be more artistically satisfactory than their use in the context of a story that strives for much greater realism.

As a writer interested in blending the classic form with a contemporary approach, this is a topic that I find thought-provoking and I plan to talk about it again in the future..In the meantime, I welcome any comments. (Incidentally, I received today a fascinating email from someone who preferred not to sign up to post a comment, and of course I welcome any direct dialogue with readers.)


Anonymous said...

Martin - No doubt about it: using that classic form of story and adapting it for contemporary characterisation and so on can be a tricky balance. And your post is a reminder (at least to me) of just how ahead of her time Christie was in terms of plot lines...

Unknown said...

Is there anyone alive now who can read a Poirot story without seeing David Suchet in the role? I cannot imagine anyone attempting to reprise the Poirot role in future productions. Suchet owns the character.