The Hollow

All Saints Dramatic Society [ASDS]  Corpus Christi Parish Centre, Boscombe KD Johnson 

  20 April  2023

The works of “The Queen of Crime”, Dame Agatha Christie, have been variously adapted for stage, screen and television and some are more familiar than others.   I don’t know this one and, in this stage version, it doesn’t feature either of her well-known sleuths – but the presence of her name alone under the title must account for at least some of tonight’s near capacity audience.  We know that we are in for a ride of murders, cunning villainy,  emotional scenes, red-herrings and trails that reach dead-ends.

The play opens and stays within the garden room of Sir Henry Angkatell’s house, The Hollow, where a family gathering is taking place.  There are exits into the flower garden and (oddly) the pistol target range to the left, a French window to the rear and a door into the rest of the house to the right.   It soon becomes apparent that Sir Henry (played here by Mark Andrews), although a KCB, is from a junior branch of the Angkatell family and that the family estate, Ainswick, has passed to the socially inept Edward Angkatell (Richard Carnell).  The matriarch of the family is the brilliant but eccentric Lucy Angkatell (Victoria Liechti) – originally of the great house but has married her cousin Henry (as above).  Add in another three cousins, Henrietta Angkatell (Latayan Richardson), Midge Harvey (Bethany Sivewright), John Christow MD (Jon Cockeram), his wife, Gerda (Maria Hood) and Hollywood star, Veronica Craye (Susanna Greenwood), who is a former lover of John Christow’s, and  we have the recipe – now stir!

Act I introduces the characters in a procedural fashion and is a bit halting in places, with the prompt called upon several times – but this is opening night and it should pick up.  The pace and the acting really does wake up in the  “morning after” Act II when we see some excellent dialogue between John and Veronica, in which latter part Susanna Greenwood maintains a convincing Hollywood style American accent throughout.  There are also further opportunities to witness the absurd behaviour of Lucy (Lady Angkatell) and this great role gives Victoria Liechti plenty of scope to show off her vocal talents and acting skills.  Here also we meet the detective duo of Inspector Colquhoun of Scotland Yard, played convincingly and with perfect pace and projection by Phil Vivian, and his DS, Penny (Nori Fitchett).

As always with a whodunnit, I can’t say too much without giving away the plot.  Maria Hood, as Gerda Christow, shows a good emotional range and Richard Carnell and Bethany Sivewright are well cast as Edward and Midge.  Director John Sivewright steps in as the family’s long-serving butler, Gudgeon, lending his authoritative presence and voice to the proceedings.  Renée Claude plays a nice cameo part as the maid.

Technically there are a  couple of issues – including the players acting in the dark at downstage left (audience right) at one point and some music not playing when it should be – these should be resolved in later performances.  From the front rows (at least) the brightness of the candelabra hanging at centre-stage, above and behind the actors, is rather uncomfortably bright – it is an interesting idea but the cast need lighting from the front, not the back.  Lines delivered to the back of the stage by some members of the cast can get a bit lost.

This is my first experience of a performance by All Saint’s Dramatic Society and also my first time at the Corpus Christi Parish Centre in Boscombe – hopefully not the last.  Congratulations to John Sivewright and the cast and crew on an excellent production, which I have no hesitation in recommending.  Be warned that it is a rather long show at about three hours and ten minutes including the interval – but we can only blame Dame Agatha for that.

Please continue to support community theatre – I know I will. The show runs until Saturday 22nd April