A Fine Review

A Fine Review


Sentinel Review 11 February 2022

OH what a tangled web we weave when first we prac­tise to deceive

An ori­ginal quote by Sir Wal­ter Scott could not be more appro­pri­ate for a night at Stoke Rep this week.



As a fan of a murder mys­tery, I was thrilled at the oppor­tun­ity to be able to watch the Rep Play­ers’ open­ing night of A Spider’s Web.

Writ­ten by Agatha Christie, the play fol­lows a tense plot led by Clarissa, a fan­tas­ist, day­dreamer and wife of a for­eign dip­lomat.

Rev­el­ling in her own tales of adven­ture and make-believe, she dreams of the day she finds a dead body in her lib­rary. And one day she has a chance to live out her day­dreams as she finds a body in her draw­ing room.


Keen to dis­pose of the body before her hus­band returns with an import­ant for­eign politi­cian, Clarissa per­suades her house guests, a curi­ous bunch, to become accessor­ies as they attempt to dis­pose of the body and con­vince a police­man there hasn’t been a murder at all.

Through a mas­ter­class of drama and com­edy, the play­ers give a con­vin­cing and con­fid­ent por­trayal of this 1950s clas­sic.

Like any good mys­tery, Christie’s fant­astic writ­ing allows the per­formers on stage to develop their unique indi­vidual char­ac­ters.

James Freeman with Shelley Rivers

Shel­ley Rivers has the task of lead­ing her guests through this far-fetched situ­ation as Clarissa, play­ing the invent­ive and yet charm­ing wife won­der­fully.

An impress­ive per­form­ance from Shel­ley as she hardly leaves the stage for the entire play, show­ing true pro­fes­sion­al­ism throughout.

There is a solid per­form­ance from Peter Her­mans play­ing Sir Row­land, along with James King as house guest Jeremy War­render.

Inspector Lord (James Free­man) didn’t miss a thing, play­ing the per­fect sleuth.

Each char­ac­ter gave a ster­ling per­form­ance with, unusu­ally for Christie, a hint of com­edy.

Mil­dred the gardener (Rose­mary Gresty), while obsess­ively pro­tect­ive of the house fur­nish­ings, delivered her one liners with per­fect comedic tim­ing.

Richard Mas­ters, as the quick minded but­ler, plays his role with a clever eye to main­tain the sus­pense by offer­ing up his own mus­ings to keep the audi­ence guess­ing.

It is unusual to see a young char­ac­ter fea­ture in a murder mys­tery, but Zoe Bailey took on the chal­lenge of play­ing Clarissa’s step daugh­ter Pipa with just the right amount of curi­os­ity and petu­lance that you’d expect from a young girl des­pite the evid­ent mature age of the act­ress.

Finally, I must men­tion the dead body. Killed off in the first act, Cairnan Roberts plays Oliver Cos­tello, a some­what unlike­able fel­low but it seems that the house­hold just can’t get rid of him in act two!

Zoe Bailey, James Freeman, Shelley Rivers & James King

A fine set depict­ing the may­oral home of the Hal­isham-Browns stood proud on the Rep stage. Com­mend­a­tion must also go the dir­ector Chris Lock­ett and to the whole pro­duc­tion team.

Who­dun­nit? Well there’s only one way to find out. Scurry along to the Stoke Rep where you will be guar­an­teed a night of sus­pense, entan­gle­ment and subtle humour in equal meas­ure.

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