Review: SPIDER’S WEB (Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton)

by Lynn on October 1, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Aquarius, Irving Zucker Auditorium, Dofasco Centre for the Arts, Hamilton, Ont.

Written by Agatha Christie

Directed by Marcia Kash

Set and Costumes by Patrick Clark

Lighting by Siobhán Sleath

Sound and composition by Creighton Doane

Cast: Mairi Babb

Guy Bannerman

Anthony Bekenn

Valerie Boyle

Douglas E. Hughes

Jeremy Legat

Peter Millard

Russell Roberts

Mike Shara

Caroline Toal

Robin Ward.

A hoot! Acted with serious commitment and directed with an eye to detail.

The Story. Clarissa Hailsham-Brown, her diplomat husband Henry and Henry’s teenage daughter, Pippa from his first wife, have rented a house in Kent. Three friends are staying with them in the house: Hugo Birch (a magistrate), Sir Rowland Delahaye (Clarissa’s guardian when she was growing up) and Jeremy R. Warrender (a dashing charmer). Jeremy is a curious chap and when he was alone in the drawing room he began looking in the drawers of a desk.

Later Oliver Costello comes to see Henry but he’s not home. Oliver tells Clarissa that he and his present wife (Henry’s first wife and Pippa’s mother—are ya getting this down? There will be a test) want Pippa to come and live with them. This is against the divorce agreement. Clarissa and Pippa are upset.  Oliver is told to leave. He does, but sneaks back in the dead of night looking in that desk for something.

The house has secret panels that open a secret doorway. There is a secret drawer in a desk. Pippa knows about it all.

Later there is a murder and the body is found in the drawing room. An inspector and his assistant come to investigate who done it. In other words, Spider’s Web is a spider’s web of intrigue. (Sorry).

 The Production. The beautifully appointed set of the Hailsham-Brown drawing room is the kind of thing that gets audiences applauding wildly when they first see it after the curtain goes up. (designer Patrick Clark has done a wonderful job of designing that drawing room suggesting money and taste.) In this case director Marcia Kash has the curtain up when the audience files in so they can get a good look at the antique furnishings, the arrangements of tables and chairs, the upholstery and the knick knacks on the mantle, and make a mental list of what they would want from up there on stage, should they have the chance. With the curtain up already, Kash has dispensed with that annoying applause that stops the show before it has a chance to begin

The cast (made up of many former Shaw actors) are all impeccable in their accents, their body language in knowing how to wear the clothes and move in them and in treating the material as seriously as possible.

As Clarissa, Mairi Babb exudes grace and charm. She has a lively wit, a quick mind and a neat way of getting out of tight corners with the law.  As for the three guests in the house: As Hugo, Anthony Bekenn is nicely stodgy and trusting; Sir Rowland Delahaye is watchful and wily as played by Robin Ward; and Jeremy R. Warrender, as played by Mike Shara, is dashing and charming. Valerie Boyle, as Miss Peake the prickly gardener, makes of meal of scene chewing as she laughs her way through the play. Jeremy Legat plays a perfectly slimy but slick Oliver Costello.   As Inspector Lord, Peter Millard is bemused and confused at the goings on in that house, and works valiantly at trying to sort everything out to find the murderer (hint; it wasn’t him. That’s another play). Moving this along is director Marcia Kash. She stages efficiently and adds subtle details to the direction and brings out the best of her dandy actors.

Comment. Agatha Christie wrote this in 1954 when she was 64 years old. She was such an imp! There are so many red herrings in the story one thought she was experimenting with a new kind of tasty fish stew. She wrote Spider’s Web two years after The Mousetrap. The Mousetrap is Christie’s longest running play (and the longest running play in the world) and Spider’s Web is her second longest running play. In any case she peppers words such as “murder”, “body”, “kill” etc. into  innocuous conversations Clarissa has with her guests  when she imagines a game she plays in her mind, that you know Agatha Christie is tweaking at us, priming us for the real thing. And these words are dropped even before there is a body.

Spider’s Web is a romp. It’s great fun done seriously and of course you will be looking at every character and listening to all of them trying to find the glitch in their story, the lie that will catch them. It’s a murder/mystery done beautifully and it a great way to begin the season.

Presented by Theatre Aquarius.

Began: Sept. 19, 2018.

Closes: Oct. 6, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes approx.

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