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More oomph needed to breathe life into this murder

Murder on the Nile - Rugby Theatre until March 16

Despite this being an Agatha Christie thriller dating back to 1944, it seems the mistress of suspense was already tired of her hero Hercule Poirot and so all the detective work in this case rests in the hands of Cannon Pennefather.

At Rugby Theatre this man of God, who dispenses wisdom while knocking back the gin fizzes, is played by Steve Crump, who has great fun puncturing the posturing of an iron-clad Lady Bracknell-type figure, played with aplomb by Bev Avis-Dakin, along with the glamorous Kay, tackled by Carly Tremayne.

There were a few first-night nerves on display on opening night - and Carly perhaps needs to practise a little more with those vintage high-heels - but she comes over very well as the poor little stylish rich girl used to getting everything she wants.

There were occasional moments on Saturday were everybody seemed unsure whose turn it was to speak next, but my only real concern among most of the female characters was their voice projection. It was sometimes a strain to hear towards the back in such a crowded theatre.

Still, the clothes looked authentic as did the stereotypical Egyptian traders coming on board to sell trinkets and offer rides on their donkeys which while safely off-set carried names like whisky and soda....and whoopsa daisy!

As it turned out, far safer to accept a ride on either animal then stay in the saloon of this luxury cruiser with people like Dr Bressner (John Tweddle), or Smith, the cynical Socialist (Mark Baird), or even Cannon Pennefather, who may be trying to unravel the plot but could well have unholy reasons of his own for wanting somebody dead.

I rather liked guilt-ridden groom Simon Mostyn (Chris Allen-Mason) but his the scenes with Jaqueline, played by Katie-Anne Ray, come close to stealing the show, particularly with her drunken woman-scorned act.

This cast needs more confidence and more volume - but Christie knows how to weave a complicated web.

And I can reveal the butler didn't do it.

Photo: Steve Crump (Cannon Pennefather) and Mark Baird as Smith.

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