The Unexpected Guest is an unexpected play, mostly due to the fact that it is one of the lesser known stories in the Christie oeuvre, which makes the imaginative ending all the more enjoyable.
Set entirely in the residence of Richard and Laura Warwick (Alexandra Kelly), a lone traveller stumbles in after a car accident and finds the master of the home slumped over, the fatal victim of a gunshot. His wife stands holding the gun, but unexpected guest Michael Starkwedder (Harry Taylor) believes her to be innocent. She is attractive, ergo cannot possibly be capable of evil.
The ensuing drama reveals that the late Warwick was quite a nasty piece of work, provoking many leads for detectives and Starkwedder, who has the interest of an amateur sleuth. A much younger but mentally diminished brother, a bitter carer, long-suffering domestic help – the list of possibilities is long with the wife the best possible suspect.
The large ensemble have a good deal of fun with this one, though this adaptation does feel on the long side. A few prolonged scenes were dangerously close to becoming tedious. In the second act the pace picked up and the action unfolded nicely. The lack of plausible plot is only mildly annoying initially, when stranger Starkwedder is determined to help the new widow by casting suspicion on to another. Again, she is attractive so presumably he cannot see her wrongfully convicted.
Highlights? Peter David Allison as Henry Angell is a gem giving a brilliant turn as a manipulative caregiver. His future is precarious with Warwick dead, so he coolly over-plays his hand, with amusing results. Ravel Balkus as young Jan Warwick is another stand-out bringing a devious and naive aspect to his character, coupled with great energy. Richard Cotter and Patrick Gallagher as police investigating cue laughs, the investigations revealing more and more curious revelations about the victim.
The wit in the play is mostly low-key, but listen carefully, as the zingers embedded in the dialogue are worth it. Director Jess David has produced a fine show with this one, where suspicions and motive are rife, which makes the guessing game all the more fun.
The Unexpected Guest is presented by arrangement with Origin Theatrical on behalf of Samuel French Ltd and is on until 1 September, for more information and tickets see: http://www.genesiantheatre.com/index.php?mode=view&s=2018&i=3&gclid=CjwKCAjwhLHaBRAGEiwAHCgG3g6_Sjz505bt6DJ9B9oRuraCRHSLKDFImhD2E153P2TkwCp5S-nAQxoCuzEQAvD_BwE
Featuring: Harry Taylor, Alexandra Kelly, Anna Desjardins, Ravel Balkus, Tricia Youlden, Peter David Allison, Richard Cotter and Thomas Southwell and Patrick Gallagher.
Creative/tech team: Jess Davis (director), Sandra Bass (assistant director), Debbie Smith (set design), Susan Carveth (costume design), Michael Schell (lighting and sound design).