Stage Review – Black Coffee

Black Coffee - Robert Powell One

‘a premium production with two interval breaks’

This is an Agatha Christie whodunit and her first original stage play that was ever produced. A film version of Black Coffee quickly followed, released in 1931.

Arguably, not up there as one of her strongest plays as it turns out. The plot and the sub plotting a little weak, but the character she made so popular, Hercule Poirot is the beating heart.

Christie had the famous Belgian detective travelling in exotic locations across the world in many of her Poirot stories; but although there are a couple of Italian characters and some Italy references this one takes place at home. Set in the library of a lavish house with many classic English connotations of a particular kind. Characters include Sir Claude, Lady Caroline, Doctors in both Science and Medicine, and a Butler called Tredwell – means, by names and professions alone, we get a feel.

This play features dramatic irony. There is a sudden death. We (the audience) know that it is going to happen and how and to some extent why it happens; ahead of the characters knowing in fact. It is murder, and with the help of Poirot, we, in our minds, join in with his quest to solve it.

Robert Powell as Poirot and Robin McCallum as Captain Hastings in Black Coffee
Robert Powell as Poirot and Robin McCallum as Captain Hastings in Black Coffee

No one from the household is allowed to leave while Poirot’s investigation is going on, he eliminates two people during the course of it, and so there are at least five other people with a possible motive. We are looking for the most unlikely character to be the guilty one, and, in this case, we are not wrong in identifying the culprit this way. As you expect, it is Poirot’s perseverance that wins in the end. Unfortunately the conclusion is not that startling.

Robert Powell displays all the famous quirks of the lead character and is mischievous and playful in his performance, and with the audience. He, and another veteran of TV and stage, actress, Liza Goddard, have great rapport with one another especially, and this professionalism raises the entertainment level. Comedy often breaks through and it is enjoyable, especially the lines of Inspector Japp and Captain Hastings.

Eric Carte as Inspector Japp, Robert Powell as Hercule Poirot and Robin McCallum as Captain Hastings in Agatha Christie's Black Coffee
Eric Carte as Inspector Japp, Robert Powell as Hercule Poirot and Robin McCallum as Captain Hastings in Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee

Black Coffee does not fizz with excitement nor is it intensely riveting, but it is, in many respects, a premium production.

Black Coffee is showing at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday 10th May

****

Cast List
A prestigious list of actors from Stage, TV, and Film – their best known credits are listed:
Tredwell – Martin Carroll many Theatre Credits and Film includes World War Z
Lucia Amory – Olivia Mace Stage and TV roles, and Film includes The Other Boleyn Girl
Miss Caroline Amory – Liza Goddard– A regular player for The Agatha Christie Theatre company. TV includes Bergerac and Give Us A Clue
Richard Amory – Ben Nealon TV – Soldier, Soldier and Film – The Northern Lights
Barbara Amory – Felicity Houlbrooke Theatre The Diary of Anne Frank
Edward Raynor – Mark Jackson Stage roles and TV includes – Beau Brummel
Dr Carelli – Gary Mavers Stage – The Hollow TV- Peak Practice
Sir Claud Amory – Ric Recate Actor
Hercule Poirot – Robert Powell (film credits – Jesus of Nazareth, 39 Steps– Stage Performances include Alan Bennett’s Single Spies (alongside Liza Goddard) and Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray. TV includes The Detectives)
Captain Arthur Hastings, OBE – Robin McCallum TV – Between The Lines
Dr Graham – John Ashby Actor
Inspector Japp – Eric Carte TV- Bouquet of Barbed Wire – and West End Theatre
Johnson – Kieran Moloney Actor

Review By Debra Hall – who attended the press night of Black Coffee on 06 May 2014, at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, on behalf of tssreviews

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