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Agatha Christie's Black Coffee Murder Mystery - UK Tour Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Get the little grey cells bubbling with Hercule Poirot
Fans of one of Agatha Christie's most loved creations, Poirot, have been grieving since the final curtain was drawn on his character in the long-running British television series.

But this theatre production touring the UK offers some relief as the Belgian detective returns for another case - Black Coffee.

Poirot returns for the case of Black Coffee

The final curtain closed on David Suchet's long-running television version of Poirot at the end of 2013, so it was always going to be hard for any actor to slip into the shoes of the well-loved Belgian detective.

Putting his 1930s hat in the ring for this theatre production is a well-known face and television regular, actor Robert Powell. Some may remember him from his comedy series The Detectives with Jasper Carrott.

The stage is superbly set in an extremely lavish art deco country manor house. Murder is quickly revealed as the head of the household, scientist Sir Claud Amory, is killed off with a cup of black coffee.

Murder mystery fans will enjoy the formulaic set-up, following every clue closely. There's the usual list of suspects played with enthusiasm by familiar faces including Liza Goddard (formerly of Bergerac), Gary Mavers (Peak Practice) and Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier), but the highlight is actor Robin McCallum as Poirot's loveable sidekick Captain Hastings. He is a refreshingly funny stooge to Poirot's one-liners.

Liza Goddard is one of the suspects under Poirot's beady eye

I don't want to give anything away, but there are plenty of motives, red herrings and twists that will keep you guessing right through to the end.

When it comes to the acting, Powell's performance is enjoyable enough, but he's just not managed to nail the finer details of Poirot, which we have come to expect from Suchet's portrayal.

This Poirot in comparison seems a bit too sprightly - he hasn't got
the quirks that make him such a small and dandy figure of fun in the novels, and he even punches a suspect at one stage.

Robert Powell takes a turn as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot

The accent is somewhat dubious at times and changes between Belgian and other European regions - even a little of Italian when he chats with a suspect from Italy.

Powell is not the worst culprit for this by far. There's an odd job of foreign accents from Gary Mavers and Olivia Mace, who are supposed to be Italian but occasionally lapse into something far different.

The accents don't impact on the overall effect and this is a pleasant affair to test the little grey cells. It also provides a welcome return of beloved Poirot to those who have been grieving since his television demise.

Score: 7/10

The show is around 2 hours and 15 minutess and includes two 10 minute intervals.

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee

Tickets cost from 16.90 and are available from individual theatre websites or the Ken Wright Production Website.

April 7 - 12 - Malvern Festival Theatre, Malvern - Box office 01684 892277

April 14 - 19 - Hall For Cornwall, Truro - Box office - 01872 262466

April 22 - 26 - Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford - Box office - 01483 440000

April 28 - May 3 - Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes - Box office - 0844 8717652

May 6 - 10 - Belgrade Theatre, Coventry - Box office 024 7655 3055

May 19 - 24 - Grand Theatre, Blackpool - Box office 01253 74 33 46

May 27 - 31 - Theatre Royal Brighton, Brighton - Box office 0844 871 7650

June 3 - 7 - Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon, London - Box office 020 8688 9291

June 9 - 14 - Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham - Box office 01242 572573

June 23 - 28 - Bord Gais Theatre, Dublin, Ireland - Box office 353 (1) 677 7999

June 30 - July 5 - Severn Theatre, Shrewsbury - Box office 01743 281 281

July 7 - 12 - Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - Box Office 0844 871 3011

July 14 - 19 Jul - Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Box Office 0844 811 2121

September 1 - 6 - Wyvern Theatre, Swindon - Box Office 01793 524 481

September 8 - 13 - Grand Theatre, Swansea - Box Office 01792 475715

September 15 - 20 - Princess Theatre, Torquay - Box Office 0844 871 3023

September 22 - 27 - Civic Theatre, Darlington - Box Office 01325 486555

September 29 - October 4 - Pomegranat, Chesterfield - Box Office 01246 345222

October 6 - 11 - Churchill Theatre, Bromley - Box Office 0844 871 7620

October 20 - 25 - His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen - Box Office 01224 641122

October 27 - November 1 - Floral Pavilion, New Brighton - Box Office 0151 666 0000
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Why? The return of Hercule Poirot
When: Tours until November 2014
Phone: 0844 871 3011 - New Alexandra Theatre
Where: UK and Ireland tour including Birmingham, Coventry, Dublin, Swansea, Aberdeen, Bromley, Brighton
Cost: From 16.90
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