Murder on the Links
Detour Theatre

WHEN Hercule Poirot's holiday at the idyllic French resort of Merlinville-sur-Mer is rudely interrupted by a letter pleading for urgent help, you can be sure it is the prelude to an evening of mystery and intrigue.

The great Belgian detective Poirot (played by Paul Evans) is shocked to discover the letter writer has been murdered before he can reach him, meaning there is plenty to keep his famous "little grey cells" busy untangling a fiendishly laid plot.

Evans carries off a convincing portrayal of Poirot, lending suitable gravitas to Agatha Christie's most celebrated fictional detective, while ably supported by Deborah Ussery as the detective's assistant, Abigail Fletcher.

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As for the murder, there are plenty of clues around, but which are important and which are red herrings?

Why is Monsieur Renauld, the dead man, wearing an overcoat that is too long for him? What is the significance of the length of lead pipe lying on the ground? Why was a crucial wristwatch two hours fast?

Was close neighbour Madame Daubreuil (Robyn Dixon) his secret mistress or was she blackmailing him? Did a violent argument with his son Jack (Connor Cambourn) lead to murder? And who is the mysterious Dulcie Duveen (Clare Hamilton), who calls herself "Cinderella"?

You get the picture. This is Agatha Christie, Queen of Crime, at her most devious.

Adding to the confusion is pipe-puffing police inspector Monsieur Giraud, enjoyably played by Matthew Simmons, who has clearly been having a lot of fun perfecting his Clouseau-like character.

What vital clues will Giraud and the examining magistrate Madame Hautet (Joanna Bishop) miss?

And if you think that's all, things get even more complicated when a second body turns up, apparently murdered in exactly the same way as the first victim.

Director Kim Williamson has assembled a cast of 11 for the production, mixing talented veteran actors with newcomers to the stage, in line with Detour's commendable policy of encouraging fresh acting talent.

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But she has done far more than that.

After discovering Murder on the Links, Christie's second Poirot book, was not available as a theatre script, Williamson boldly set about adapting the book for the stage herself.

Turning the narrative of a novel into crisp dialogue and theatrical action is a remarkable accomplishment for any writer, so it must have been particularly rewarding for Williamson to see her creation come to life on the stage.

The crew at Detour have also come up with an imaginatively adaptable stage set in order to cope with the varied demands of the novel's indoor/outdoor settings on a golf links, at a restaurant, in the village, and inside the first murder victim's study.

Murder on the Links runs until September 21.