*** (3 Stars)
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent - Monday 17 February, 2014
Despite being one of Agatha Christie’s lesser known works, Black Coffee is a whodunit murder mystery that keeps the audience guessing. Written and set in 1929, the play takes place in the library of the affluent Amory family’s country home where head of the household, inventor Sir Claude Amory, hires the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to discover which of his guests has stolen his precious secret formula worth a sizeable fortune.
With themes of lies, secrecy, thievery and murder, the audience is gripped from the start and welcome the comic relief delivered in the form of witty one-liners, which are not as evident in Christie’s more famous stories. Liza Goddard in particular stands out as Sir Claude’s aged sister, Miss Caroline, a lovable lady who finds comfort amongst the drama in her knitting.
The cast of thirteen, led by Holby City star Robert Powell as Poirot, has a good dynamic, complementing each other well. Occasionally, however, accents slip and diction becomes lazy, ultimately making it difficult to decipher some of the dialogue.
The set is simple yet beautifully designed with art deco features, which were very popular during the 1920s. Again, the period costume design fits well while also reflecting the personalities of the characters.
With two 10 minute intervals breaking up the three acts, the audience has time to discuss and make predictions of their own as to who committed the crimes and for what reasons.
There is no doubting Black Coffee is an enjoyable classic that is suitable for all, however, younger audiences may find it a little outdated as the humour especially is not as relevant today as it was when it was originally performed.
Black Coffee is currently on a national tour. Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-black-coffee/