Agatha Christie's Love From A Stranger | The Lowry | Manchester
“I’ve never seen such a change in a man.”
With all the tropes of a classic thriller, the real shock of Christie’s 1924 Love From A Stranger, is how this established mystery continues to hypnotise its crowds. Creating genuine gasps and noooooos from audience members throughout its suspenseful, character-driven narrative, this adaptation by Lucy Bailey brings out the Miss Marple in every spectator.
The story follows recent Sweepstake winner Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) as she uncovers a new-found need for spontaneity and travel. It goes without saying that mo money means mo problems, but Cecily’s winnings also come with opportunities. With plans to rent her apartment, travel and revaluate her relationship to longstanding fiancé Ronald, nothing is holding her back. Though friend Mavis (Alice Haig) and only living relative, aunty Ethel (Molly Logan) do believe Cecily’s sudden need for an escapade is a little extreme. Unexpectedly, Nigel Lawrence (Justin Avoth) steps into the picture, entering in the hopes of renting Cecily’s space and leaving her with the promise of love and adventure.
Within the story, there are enough stranded characters and pockets of information to have the detective within you develop your conclusions before the intermission. Long-standing private eyes may have already cracked the case, or quite possibly anyone who has watched an episode of Scooby Doo. However, within the scope of two hours, the joy of Agatha Christie’s narrative remains in the chase, rather than its reveal.
At the Lowry, Mike Britton’s pure and understated set design offers a house that extends past both sides of the stage. Its transparent walls can reveal the hidden spaces surrounding the characters while also obstructing the movement of others. Its eerie flashes of white and red surround Nigel, combined with a naturalistic soundtrack of clocks, heartbeats and buzzing.
The perfectly paced thriller offers a wonderfully eccentric cast whose wity, believable dialogue can be over analysed by the audience in an effort to unravel the mystery before its final scenes. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre, it is easy to appreciate the humour, performances and design that is lovingly lavished into this production. The traditions of Agatha have been slightly updated with this feisty remake. Originally adapted by Frank Vosper for the stage in 1936, the characters here are far more suggestive and tactless. Yet, the queen of crime’s short story follows the familiar footprint of her other masterful thrillers and it is the direction and actors that hold the suspense. In a production that proves you needn’t mess with the classics, Love From A Stranger continues to stand the test of time.