Dame Agatha's whodunnit keeps audience guessing right to the end
It is a real privilege, says Liza Goddard, to step into a part created by the late Queen of Crime, Dame Agatha Christie.
"She writes so very well," says Liza, who's on tour with the Agatha Christie Theatre Company in Go Back for Murder.
Liza, star of TV drama Bergerac and long-running quiz show Give Us A Clue, has never appeared in an Agatha Christie play before, and she's enjoying herself immensely.
She plays the part of governess Miss Williams, one of five suspects in the frame for the murder of businessman Amyas Crale, in a play which Christie based on her popular novel Five Little Pigs.
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"It is good fun," says Liza. "It is a character part, which is always fun to do. There are five suspects and Miss Williams is one of them. The company is a lovely community and we really are enjoying ourselves, which is good, because we are going through to December with it.
"We are full all the time. Basically people love a thriller, they love a murder story. And I think also that they know that they are going to have a good evening, because Agatha Christie writes so very well.
"We have an awful lot of families come and see it, children and grandparents, and they all enjoy it. My granddaughter loves it, she's just turned 13 and she saw it in Blackpool."
The play runs at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple over the coming week, from Monday to Saturday.
"I'm looking forward to coming down to the Westcountry, as I spent a lot of my childhood there – my grandparents lived in Polzeath," says Liza. "I have played at Barnstaple before, it is a lovely town."
And Liza is just one of the familiar faces from TV who is starring in the play. Playing both Carla and her mother Caroline Crale, is Sophie Ward, whose recent credits include the award-winning BBC period drama Land Girls, ITV's Heartbeat, the BBC's Holby City and the 2011 film Jane Eyre.
Suspect Phillip Blake, one of Caroline's admirers, is played by Robert Duncan, who played Gus Hedges in the TV comedy Drop the Dead Donkey. The part of Amyas, the murder victim, is played by Gary Mavers, best-known as heartthrob Andrew Attwood in drama Peak Practice. Amyas's mistress Elsa Greer, also in the frame for the murder, is brought to life by Lysette Anthony stars in the BBC sitcom Three Up, Two Down, ITV's soap opera Night and Day, and in Woody Allen's award-winning film Husbands and Wives.
Meanwhile the part of Justin Fogg, the son of Carla's mother's defence lawyer, who acts as sleuth, is played by Ben Nealon, who many will remember from his role as Capt Jeremy Forsythe from the long-running ITV drama Soldier Soldier.
They have come together at the instigation of Carla, who has discovered that her mother, Caroline Crale, died in prison after being convicted of killing her father. Having read a letter from her mother, professing her innocence, Carla is determined to clear her name.
She invites the suspects back to the scene of the crime to put forward the version of events about what happened that night 16 years ago, when philandering artist Amyas dropped dead while painting the portrait of his mistress Elsa. He'd just drunk a glass of cold beer brought to him by his wife, and the prosecution claimed she'd poisoned him. Could someone else, though, have done the deed? As always with Agatha Christie, the truth is far from obvious. "She keeps the audience guessing right to the end," says Liza.
After many decades on stage and screen, Liza says she still gets a thrill from doing live theatre. "To appear in front of an audience of 800 is quite something," she says.