Theatre review: Murder on Air, Glasgow

Murder on Air shows that there is a limit to nostalgia's appeal, writes Joyce McMillan. Picture: TSPL

Murder on Air shows that there is a limit to nostalgia's appeal, writes Joyce McMillan. Picture: TSPL

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MANY theatre companies have made a good living, in recent years, out of the assumption that there is no limit to the public appetite for 1930s-style nostalgia, all gorgeous evening dresses, cut-glass accents and chaps in dinner suits.

Murder on Air

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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And when that nostalgia comes combined with a classic whodunnit storyline, and the increasingly fashionable and fascinating stage device of setting the whole show in an old-fashioned BBC radio studio, the appeal sometimes seems almost irresistible.

With the Agatha Christie Theatre Company’s Murder On Air, though, it seems as though this format may somehow have reached the limit of its capacity to surprise and entertain. There’s nothing wrong with the basic idea, which is of some historic interest: the show delivers three short, violent Agatha Christie radio plays featuring two murdering husbands and one wicked lady, and includes some truly delightful work from the eight-strong cast, led by Glasgow guest stars Barbara Rafferty and Tony Roper.

Somehow, though, the whole show – with its intimate radio delivery – just seems a little too muted in style for a space as large as the Theatre Royal, and a little restricted by the pressure of including two guest stars, reading intently from the script, in every city it visits.

The plays are socially fascinating in their way, and sound-artist-cum-pianist Alexander S Bermange turns in a heroic performance in his onstage studio, conjuring up steam trains and street scenes with aplomb.

As a theatre event, though, Murder On Air suffers from a profound lack of energy and audiences looking for wholehearted, large-scale theatrical entertainment are likely to feel more than a little disappointed.

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