When the leaflet handed out just before I enter a show boldly proclaims ‘Celebrating 18 years at the Fringe,’ my expectations are high. And Livewire Theatre doesn’t disappoint with its new take on Agatha Christie’s Poirot, set against the backdrop of Egypt in the 20s.
It is 1922 and two famous British archaeologists are excavating Tutankhamun’s tomb, poised on the brink of discovering ancient treasures. Entwined with this story is the voyage of the Great Boat of Ra and its passengers, who are connected to each other by fate, love and darkness. The show manages to create an air of mystery by clever use of props – there are candles and lanterns of the bazaars, the ornate panes of a mansion house window that turn into a bridge, and the big orb-like paper moon. Some of the imagery is wonderful, including the head of the Sphinx that towers over all.
The performers enthral the audience for the full 90 minutes of the production with haunting dialogue, beautiful poetry, and ethereal lights that lend an eerie, gothic quality throughout. We are taken through the vicissitudes of a love triangle; in particular, Fabia Tate is fantastic as a jilted lover. As the not-very-Poirot-like Poirot remains at the fringes of the crime, uneasy tension begins to mount. Right through to the very end, when the crime is explained and the criminal unveiled, the show is tightly written.
I have always had a problem with Christie’s writing, and this show was the same for me – too many people to keep track of. With over 15 characters, it’s hard to remember who’s who. I struggled at various stages until, towards the end, there was a genius scene that assigned every character their own tarot card – a clever device to clarify the various roles, which I wished had been used earlier.
The production has now ended its run at the Fringe this year, but I am sold as far as Livewire Theatre goes – and will definitely keep an eye out for their 19th year.