Cruising to achieve a murder mystery masterpiece

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Trinity Theatre Club puts on its production of Murder on the Nile next week. Here its
director Chris Howland tells Eileen Leahy why they decided to take on this famed Agatha
Christie classic… and rename it


Why did you decide to do Murder on the Nile as a production and what is the play about?
The play is set on a cruise on the Nile and we meet the usual mix of Christie characters.
We renamed it Murder on the Nile instead of Death on the Nile because the stage play is
quite different to the book and film. There’s there’s no Poirot for a start. As the play develops tensions build between the three main characters and in a drunken argument one of them is shot in the leg. What we don’t know is that at the same time somewhere else on the boat, someone has been murdered. With most people appearing to have an alibi and it being proven that no one could have come on board, they realise that someone amongst them is a murderer. The hunt is on with one of the characters taking control and trying to solve the crime before the police arrive in the morning. It soon transpires that someone did see something and very subversely tries to blackmail the
guilty party, this as in any Christie play means only one thing: Another murder!

Are you a fan of the famous film version that starred Peter Ustinov, David Niven, Bette David and Maggie Smith?
Absolutely! I have always loved the film and when I was growing up we always had the books in the house. You could say I was brought up on Christie’s novels. My mother even directed this play a lifetime ago, so I have always known of it.

How does the play version of this Christie classic differ from the original book and numerous TV adaptations?
Hugely so as Agatha Christie cut out over half the book’s original characters when adapting it for the the stage and screen. The main story and plot remain the same as the original book but with the reduction in the number of characters the body count is slightly less too!

Are the cast who star in your production all from the local scene?
Most are from the Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge area. So, yes very local which makes it easier to rehearse.

What do you think audiences will enjoy most about your interpretation of the story?
I think that they will love the usual Agatha Christie story, but with the change in staging
and the cast volume it will feel different to what they are expecting. There is, as always
with this type of classic thriller, plenty of comic relief as well as tension. There has to be
a balance to thrill the audience, two particular characters have some very funny lines and
moments, some you shouldn’t laugh at but I’m sure you will!

Were there any tricky elements in staging it?
We have decided to be different and have set the action on the sun deck of the boat. So we will, in effect, be building part of the boat and this will be on a 45 degree angle on the stage. This means that we have had to work with a smaller acting space and allow for a different playing area.

How often do you work with Trinity?
This is my third production in a row for Trinity. I was the producer and production manager for both Sleuth and The Crucible but Murder on the Nile is actually my directoral debut for the theatre. Trinity have incredible high production values and produce excellent pieces. It is always a pleasure working with such a talented theatre group.

What do you like about directing in general?
It’s the challenge of taking an existing piece that someone else has written and being creative with how the play should be stage and produced. The rehearsal period is the manifestation of months of pre-work and meetings with all the back stage teams to create what we feel is the best for the production. Also, the chance to work with some incredibly talented people and see how they use their skills to bring the characters to life.

Do you have any other plans to work with Trinity again in the near future?
I will most probably have a bit of a break. I have a special birthday coming up and am getting married at the beginning of 2019, so will need to focus on that particular production! I will, of course, help on the Trinity Theatre Club committee, but won’t be taking on any big commitments.

Murder on the Nile runs at Trinity Theatre from Tuesday February 27 until Saturday
March 3. Tickets and timings vary. See

Plot spot

Here’s a brief synopsis of Agatha Christie’s dazzling, exotic story of passion, jealousy and retribution. The beautiful young heiress Kay Ridgeway and her newly-wed husband Simon board an Egyptian cruise-ship for their honeymoon. But among the other guests aboard is Simon’s ex-fiancée, determined to follow the couple everywhere they go, wreaking a silent, unnerving revenge. When Kay is suddenly murdered, suspicion
naturally falls on her rival – but what if she wasn’t the culprit?

Why Murder on the Nile still is relevant today

“This play was written and set just before WWII and has a very European cast and a sense of the tensions that were happening in the world at the time. And so to today and with feelings currently running high in this country with regard to Brexit and the EU (and certainly in the South East), some of the stronger nationalistic views expressed in the play could easily be in our national newspapers tomorrow morning.”Chris Howland,  director

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