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Verdict, Review

Paul Clarke cross-examines Agatha Christie at the Grand

Written by . Published on August 17th 2011.

Verdict, Review

VERDICT is a rarity for the 'Queen of Crime' as it is a psychological  melodrama rather than her usual obvious whodunits that still manage to sell millions today.

"What makes Verdict worth a visit is a very strong cast, who use their years of experience to really work the material, raising it above the mediocre."

The story revolves around the idealistic Professor Karl Hendryk who has fled either Hitler or Stalin with his wheelchair bound wife Anya, and her cousin Lisa, to live in exile in a book-lined London flat. 

Their seemingly idyll life is turned upside down when spoilt brat and prospective student Helen forces her way into their world with fatal consequences. 

The daft choices made by the high-minded and other worldly Karl sees one character facing the noose as we wait for the final verdict - geddit?

To modern audiences, much of the dialogue seems old fashioned as does the sometimes clunky way the action - such as it is - moves from scene to scene. It is clear that Christie wasn't in the same league as a dramatist compared to someone like Terence Rattigan, who was the master of melodrama. 

Although I was pleased to see Christie couldn't resist introducing the obligatory hapless police inspector in the second act.

But what makes Verdict worth a visit is a very strong cast, who use their years of experience to really work the material, raising it above the mediocre.

Holding the whole thing together is Robert Duncan - best known as the odious Gus in Drop the Dead Donkey - who captures the volcano of resentment lurking under Karl's urbane facade.

His equal is Emmerdale's Susan Penhaligon, who is genuinely touching as the tough Lisa battling with her secret love for the silly professor, which has devastating consequences for her.

Both leads have adopted decent Eastern European accents which makes the decision of Cassie Raine, who plays Anya, to play it with no accent at all more than a little bizarre.  Luckily Holly Goss, as the demented Helen, more than compensates with a perfect cut glass accent, and a clever performance subtly showing the madness lurking under the pure surface.

Sometimes Verdict unintentionally lurches into high camp. Thankfully the skills of the cast who play it with total conviction means my verdict is that you should check out old hands Duncan and Penhaligon at the top of their game taking a strong cast along with them in a high class production.

Tickets are on sale now for at Leeds Grand Theatre price from £14 to £27.50 and it runs until Saturday August 20.

 Book by calling Box Office on 0844 848 2705 or online at www.leedsgrandtheatre.com

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