Most amateur dramatic groups in the country have produced an Agatha Christie play at some point in their history and a few recent interpretations have been very radical indeed.

Most amateur dramatic groups in the country have produced an Agatha Christie play at some point in their history and a few recent interpretations have been very radical indeed.

St Neots Players decided to play A Murder is Announced at The Priory Centre, from May 21-23, with a straight bat and a very fine innings they made of it.

A substantial set rising from the nostalgic memories of the early 1950s dominated the stage with two wonderful candelabra hanging low to meet pastel flats and sturdy doors (so vital to the plot) in a double' drawing room full of period pieces and totally appropriate props. The music, lighting and sound effects were equally evocative with the Joan Hickson TV version of Miss Marple providing a delightful soundtrack .

The script adapted by Leslie Darbor from Christie's original does not have the wit of recent incarnations and, by definition, it contains much explanation and exposition at the expense of genuine character development.

However, the cast were up to the task of convincing us that we were indeed in Chipping Cleghorn and that a murder really had been announced in The Gazette. The shooting by torchlight and the poisoning of poor Bunny were particularly well done.

Hats off to fledgling director, Chris Baker, for his mastery of action sequences and his ability to place numerous cast members strategically whilst adding pace to their performances.

Given a large cast, it is inevitable that there will be inconsistencies of tone and this seemed to me to be the main issue with an otherwise immaculate piece of theatre. There were outstanding performances from Don McKay as Inspector Craddock and Louise Anderson as Miss Blacklock because they captured the nuances of speech in an entirely natural way whilst becoming their characters convincingly throughout the play.

That being said, Emmeline Lyster's Miss Marple was most endearing yet authoritative; we just knew that she would do most of the detection whilst Inspector Craddock relied on procedure. Lynda Collings' Dora Bunner was fussy and funny whilst Heike Riddle's Mitzi was a heady mix of dizziness and double dealings with some fine physical comedy moments.

The young inheritors of Julia, Pippa and Patrick, were interpreted with swagger and glamour in the strong portrayals of Stephanie Pittam, Charlie Evans and Rowan Marshall respectively whereas the somewhat thankless parts of Edmund and his mother Mrs Swettenham were given life and energy by Hugo Henche and Louise Hewitt.

Tom Monkhouse provided sterling support as Rudi Scherz and Sergeant Mellors.

An appreciative and near capacity audience gave the play and players a well-deserved and enthusiastic round of applause for a terrific interpretation of an old favourite and I look forward to seeing The Ladykillers in September.

Reviewed by Sandra Samwell