Making a virtue of its creakiness and hamming it up beautifully, the cast work wonderfully well together to offer the most entertaining of evenings.
Of course, it’s contrived; and no real-life killer is ever going to behave in the way our wicked killer does here.
But the stagey-ness of it all has become part of the point – and a huge part of the enjoyment.
A murder has been committed by someone in a soft hat, dark coat and a light-coloured scarf – precisely the clothes most people are wearing when they turn up on opening day in a rather disorganised guest house which is promptly and conveniently completely shut off by snow.
And remember, these are the days before mobiles…
Killer, suspects and potential victims are confined with no choice but to annoy each other with their evasions and eccentricities. We’ve got the dodgy over-the-top foreigner, the crusty major, the spinster with a secret, the spinster soon to depart this world and a seemingly-happily married couple soon to discover they really, really don’t know awfully much about each other.
Throw in a background of child cruelty revived by a London strangling, and the trap is well and truly set for a fab night at the theatre which gets ever more enjoyable with every creak and every lapse into increasingly implausibility.
It will always remain a mystery why this largely unremarkable play has had the remarkable history it has had. But there’s no doubting it’s fun – nicely delivered and very nicely played by a cast feeding off each other to great effect.
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