The Hollow ran at Stoke Repertory Theatre until Saturday 12th August, look out for more from United National Theatre Productions, soon.
Star rating: ****
Not one of Agatha Christie’s quickest paced stories, The Hollow has always been an arduous story for me to engage with, personally. This production was no different from that perspective, however this is completely attributed to the script and not the performances or overall presentation of the piece.
The set instantly transported the audience to the 1938 grandeur of Sir Henry and Lady Lucy Angkatell’s estate. It offered splendour and the perfect backdrop for murder and intrigue, plenty of exits for swift, hasty retreats, too. The introduction of the various characters, basically compiled of suspects-to-be and victim(s)-to-be was time consuming yet necessary and I instantly enjoyed the chemistry between Sir Henry (Guy Siner) and Lady Lucy (Jenny Hanley). The pair appeared to steer the action between them and the combined experience of Siner and Hanley did not go unnoticed. Siner was superb as the bumbling gentleman of the manor, despairing of his ever matchmaking wife, whom Hanley portrayed brilliantly. So, with a Christmas gathering arranged, cousins aplenty arriving to stay (Edward (Nigel Peever), Henrietta (Cathy O’Reilly) and Midge (Suzanne Kendall)), together with Dr Christow (Tim Churchill) and his anxious wife, Gerda (Deborah Cornock), it’s only a matter of time before someone is due to exit stage left before the second half. There’s also the small matter of a well known American actress who has taken a cottage merely yards away, Veronica Craye (Annie Bailey) and has history with the good Doctor. As does Henrietta with whom Dr Christow is having an affair. Of course, once the inevitable murder takes place, there’s always the suspicion as to whether the Butler did it – in this case the all-seeing Gudgeon (James King) or indeed whether Inspector Colquhoun (Graham Martin) is all he’s cracked up to be.
Tim Churchill plays the rather cocky Doctor with bolshiness and just enough humility to gain some sympathy, albeit short-lived. I felt that Nigel Peever played Edward interestingly, with a combination of a chipper happy-go-lucky persona versus a very unhappy man. Graham Martin picked the pace up when he appeared as the Inspector in Act Two and spoke volumes with his facial expressions. Annie Bailey made for a sultry Veronica Craye and Suzanne Kendall played Midge in ideal stark contrast, shy, timid even, yet incredibly frustrated. One of the stand out performances emulated from Deborah Cornock as Gerda, a complex role indeed, with more layers than it may initially appear. Cath O’Reilly is also one to watch, her performance as Henrietta was incredibly engaging and had me guessing til the end.
I’m looking forward to the next production, And Then There Were None and I’m delighted that David Mansell will direct this too, he certainly has an eye for the nuances of Christie’s work. A thoroughly enjoyable experience at the theatre.