60s pop star on road in whodunnit

60s pop idol-turned-actor Mark Wynter is enjoying his fifth year on the road with Agatha Christie - a great chance to enjoy a much under-rated dramatist.

Many people will sniff a little at the thought of seeing a Christie on stage. They’re missing out on something special, says Mark, who lives just outside Arundel.

“When you get to analyse what she does, her invention is phenomenal.

“Crime writing has become much more sophisticated in recent years, but she is without doubt the most successful crime writer in the world. She has a great understanding as to why people commit crimes. She has a great understanding of the inner psyche.”

Money, power and sex are the prime motivations, something Christie realised very young - and it’s still the case today, which probably explains the growing success of the the Agatha Christie Theatre Company which tours this year with Verdict, their sixth production in as many years.

Mark missed out on the first year but has been with the company ever since and has been delighted to see the tour schedule grow ever more packed each year.

They start out on the road in January and run through till mid-November. In previous years, they’ve had a three or four week summer break - something which has disappeared this year.

Mark had booked the flights, and then the summer show dates came through. Now the family are forced to head off without him: “The job has to take priority!”

Part of the satisfaction is that finally the company is winning Christie the stage profile she deserves, after years in which too many theatres were far too snooty about the great dame.

“When you had rep companies they would be doing Christies all the time on a very tawdry scale, sitting room, drawing room, put on in a week and maybe not particularly good. They were done all over the place, and it was just oversupply.”

In the end, the Christie estate withdrew them, and in a collaboration aimed at putting the quality back in, the Agatha Christie Theatre Company - under Barnham-based director Joe Harmston - was born, part of Bill Kenwright’s empire.

Following the huge success of The Hollow, The Unexpected Guest, And Then There Were None, Spider’s Web, and last year Witness For The Prosecution, this year Joe, Mark and the rest of the cast turn the spotlight on a different aspect of Christie’s stage-writing in Verdict.

Having been forced to flee persecution in his home country, the brilliant and idealistic Professor Karl Hendryk leads a content and morally-upstanding life, but his world is turned upside down when the prospect of life-saving treatment for his invalid wife persuades him to take on a new pupil against his better judgement; the spoilt, conniving minx Helen who will stop at nothing to get her way.

As Mark explains: “With this one, you don’t have to guess who did the murder. You

see the murder happening on stage...”

The tour takes the play to the Connaught Theatre, Worthing until April 23 (01903 206206); the Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne from May 9-14 (01323 412000), the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford from May 30-June 4 (01483 440000) and Theatre Royal, Brighton from July 18-23 (08448 717650).