Review: The Hollow at The Mill at Sonning

fourstars

Sassy American Veronica Cray (Leanne Rowe) and John Cristow (Jason Riddington)

Sassy American Veronica Cray (Leanne Rowe) and John Cristow (Jason Riddington)

There is no-one who does a murder mystery quite like Agatha Christie.

The clever plot, the sassy characters and the delicious undercurrent of suspicion – it’s all there in The Hollow and The Mill at Sonning’s version certainly does Christie’s writing justice.

Directed by renowned actor Brian Blessed, who happened to be in the audience the night we went along, the play sizzles with intrigue, betrayal, and of course, murder most fowl.

With Dr John Christow lying dead on the floor, having been fatally wounded by gun shots, the finger of suspicion begins to points to every guest who has gathered at the home of Sir Henry and Lady Angkatell for the weekend. And the scene has been set so impeccably well, it is near impossible to guess who actually pulled the trigger.

Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed), John Cristow (Jason Riddington), Veronica (Leanne Rowe) and Sir Henry (Terence Wilton)

Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed), John Cristow (Jason Riddington), Veronica (Leanne Rowe) and Sir Henry (Terence Wilton)

Jason Riddington played John Cristow as a brazen lothario, certainly not thinking with his brain, and it made for a thrilling love triangle with his insipid wife Gerda (Emily Stride), his warm and charming mistress Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed) and his fiery former lover, the American, Veronica Craye (Leanne Rowe).

Rowe was wonderful as screen siren Cray and the spotlight on her entrance was a stroke of genius. It was one of several playful moments, which, along with some witty humour, made The Hollow feel fresh and modern, a far cry from the stuffy libraries of traditional murder mysteries.

There are several things you want from a good murder mystery. Intrigue, of course, strong characters and pace, and The Mill hits two out of three perfectly, with just the pace needing to be a bit snappier. Despite two detectives being hot on the heels of the murderer, the questioning felt quite drawn out in the second half. One red herring too many may have let our thirst for the truth wane a little in between, although the reveal was thoroughly satisfying when it did arrive.

Edward Angkatell (Alexander Neal) and Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed)

Edward Angkatell (Alexander Neal) and Henrietta (Rosalind Blessed)

With a very strong cast – Hildegard Neil in particular gave a fantastically kooky performance as Lady Angkatell – and such a masterful script, The Hollow is an intriguing and entertaining piece of theatre, and a mystery which certainly does keep you guessing right until the very end.

The Hollow is at The Mill at Sonning from now until 3 September. To book visit www.themillatsonning.com.

I was invited to review The Hollow so my tickets were complimentary but all opinions are my own.

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