Agatha Christie Wiki
Advertisement

Murder at the Vicarage is a 1949 play by Moie Charles and Barbara Toy based on the 1930 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. Christie's official biography suggests that the play was written by Christie with changes then made by Charles and Toy, presumably enough for them to claim the credit. Whatever the truth of the authorship, Christie was enthusiastic about the play and attended its rehearsals and first night.

It was first performed at the New Theatre, Northampton on October 17, 1949 prior to moving to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End where it opened on December 16, 1949. The play was the first time that the character of Miss Marple had been depicted outside the original books and she was portrayed by Barbara Mullen. The director was Reginald Tate who also played the part of Lawrence Redding. The play enjoyed a run of 126 performances, closing on April 1, 1950.

In its issue of December 15, 1949, The Times gave an unenthusiastic review which began, "Everyone has a motive for killing. Nobody, unhappily, has any good stage reason for living. It is not until the final scene - the pressure of events then forcing two of the characters into melodramatic life - that we become aware that there was, after all, an effective one-act play in Miss Christie's novel". The unnamed reviewer complained of the "walking ciphers of the vicarage" and "the rather thin theatrical excitement of first one, then another confession, both of which possibly cancel each other". Despite these comments, the actors and the direction were both praised.

Ivor Brown, reviewing the play in the December 18, 1949 issue of The Observer said, "Barbara Mullen is excellent as that sharp-eyed Prodnose Miss Marple, along with that of Reginald Tate as the questionable painter and of Jack Lambert as the nice, dull, dutiful vicar, gives West End quality to a production otherwise on a less exalted level. The whole thing could have been made more effective by better casting of certain parts, however, the company, which started with a nervous over-emphasis and clouted us over their heads with their lines, steadied by half-time and the second act was very much more persuasive than the first."

After closing in the West End it was picked up later that year by Peter Saunders for a national tour as he was desperate to recoup his losses from a failed staging of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1913 book, The Poison Belt. He hit upon the idea that the name of the actors who starred in the production wouldn't really matter as Christie herself was enough of a public name to attract the audience. He therefore deliberately advertised the play as Agatha Christie's "Murder at the Vicarage" rather than "Murder at the Vicarage" by Agatha Christie. This small piece of showmanship worked. He recouped his losses and, more importantly, brought himself to the attention of Christie who, annoyed with the slow progress of the usual producer of her plays, Bertie Meyer, offered her latest play, The Hollow to Saunders instead. This started an association between Saunders and Christie which was to last for many years and culminate in The Mousetrap, the play with the longest continuing original run in theatre history.

The play was first published by Samuel French Ltd. in January 1951 (copyright dated 1950).

Synopsis of scenes

The action of the play passes in the study of a vicarage in the country, at the present time.

  • ACT I
    • SCENE 1 - A Tuesday in summer. Afternoon.
    • SCENE 2 - The following day. 6.45pm.
    • SCENE 3 - Thursday morning.
  • ACT II
    • SCENE 1 - The following Sunday. Late afternoon.
    • SCENE 2 - An hour and a half later.

Cast of 1949 London Production

1975 London Production

F5E48DCB-2EFC-4CF1-BEA4-50EDC0F227E6.jpg

The play was directed by Donald Bodley and premiered at the Savoy Theatre on Monday 27th July, 1975. Barbara Mullen reprised her 1949 role as Miss Marple.

A year later the play transferred to the Fortune Theatre. By then the role of Miss Marple was played by actress Avril Angers.

1975 cast

1976 cast/Fortune Theatre

1977 cast (from June 6th)

Cast of 1978

Cast of 1979

Characters in order of appearance:

1982 Windsor Theatre Company production

The play was performed at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, between July 13th and August 7th 1982. The play was directed by Hugh Goldie

1982 cast

  • Penelope Horner as Anne Protheroe
  • Nigel Greaves as Dennis
  • Buster Merryfield as Dr John Haydock
  • Karin MacCarthy as Griselda Clement
  • Philip Anthony as Inspector Slack
  • Harvey Ashby as Lawrence Redding
  • Kate Dorning as Lettice Protheroe
  • Sharon Courtney as Mary
  • Mary Kerridge as Miss Marple
  • Annette Kerr as Mrs Price Ridley
  • Christopher Augur (credited as Chris Augur) as PC Jennings
  • John Humphry as Rev Leonard Clement
  • Graham Seed as Ronald Hawes

Other performances

During the summer of 1980 actor Chris Hamill (also known under the name Limahl) played Dennis Clement at the Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-Sea production.

Advertisement