Murder on the Nile
By Agatha Christie
The Agatha Christie Theatre Company
The Lowry, 8 May 2012
Violence is guaranteed, so too an exotic locale, cheesy melodrama and laboured caricature: for one can hardly talk of character when it comes to Christie.
Still, it was interesting to see the play after having recently viewed an exhibition of posters from the Empire Marketing Board at Manchester Art Gallery, since the iconography is so similar. Frivolous white people take centre-stage as brown-skinned people (the natives, they’re referred to here) scamper around after them, seeing to their whims and needs, fetching drinks and carrying bags.
There’s a moment when Smith, the champagne (not to say sham) socialist, accuses O’Mara’s character (the ff woman) of treating her niece as a slave. He does this by way of condemnation, while all the while he and the other passengers address the steward as ‘boy’. It’s all so unaware, unproblematic, unintelligent.
As well as the murder, there’s the profusion of foreign accents to laugh at: European allsorts. What else? Well, the disdain of high finance would have been resonant if not for the implicit anti-Semitism. And there’s the absurd way in which the most implausible and elaborate explanation for a crime is also somehow the logically correct one.
A play to laugh at, not with; it belongs in an earlier century and good riddance. When it’s over, you’re thankful.