|The Murder of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd |
Where: The Masque, 37 Main Rd, Muizenberg
When: November 3-18, 2023 (scroll down for details of evening and matinees)
Director: Stephan Fourie
Tickets: From R120
Bookings: Via Quicket https://qkt.io/MurderofRA
Discounted bookings: 10 tickets or more – contact email@example.com
The Masque Box Office: Open from 9am to 2pm every Wednesday
Adaption: Stephan Fourie and Faeron Wheeler- from Agatha Christie’s 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Set design: Robyn Theron
Set engineering: Simon Dutton
Costume design: Marna Wright
Producers: Joint production between The Masque and Cape Town Theatre
What happens backstage doesn’t stay backstage – when an amateur drama society stages a play – adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Intrigued? Get to the Masque in Muizenberg, November 3-18, 2023 and be prepared for fun in The Murder of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd– a play within a play. This play is a co-production between the Masque and Cape Town Theatre Company. Stephan Fourie of the Cape Town Theatre Company and Faeron Wheeler (the programming manager at the Masque) have adapted this play from Agatha Christie’s book. Fourie is in the director’s seat and gives insights into taking the iconic murder-thriller to stage. He says that “with Covid and lockdowns, it’s been over three years since a good old whodunnit has been on the Masque stage.” He muses that “one of the best things about theatre is what happens backstage – the chaos of scene changes that go wrong, the actors who aren’t paying attention and miss cues, the mishaps with lines. These things will bond a cast and crew together with memories that stay with them forever. This is a large part of what I wanted to showcase and highlight with The Murder of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” Read on for more:
TCR: What made you decide to adapt the 1926 novel, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd l by Agatha Christie – for staging in Cape Town 2023?
Stephan Fourie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her most popular books, and the one that really put her on the map as a crime author. It’s full of excellent twists and turns, all of which keep the reader (and the audience in the theatre) guessing. We were drawn to this particular book because it is such a seminal work and it seemed fitting for Agatha’s return to the Masque stage.
The Masque and Agatha Christie have such a strong bond, with so many of her works being put on at the theatre over its varied history. With Covid and lockdowns, it’s been over three years since a good old whodunnit has been on the Masque stage – and we felt this was the right time to bring Agatha back.
TCR: How did this co-production come about – between Cape Town Theatre Company and The Masque?
SF: It was all quite serendipitous. We had the idea for a whodunnit, but a play-within-a-play version and I reached out to the Masque to see if they had space in the calendar for us towards the end of this year. Faeron Wheeler, head of programming at the theatre, said she had been thinking that a whodunnit should be next on the calendar and had pencilled in a few weeks in November already.
What we’re all really excited about with this co-production is that we can combine our forces and talents to elevate this production to hopefully new heights. We’ve been quite ambitious with the project, which is something that our partnership has allowed for.
TCR: How you and Faeron go about adapting the script? I have not read the book. It sounds very complicated – the plot. Hope it will be ‘spark-notes’ easy to follow?
SF: The adaptation process went through three phases. I started with pulling the dialogue and plotlines straight out of the book and into a script format. Faeron and I then went through the most important plot points and began whittling down the script to just the essential characters and story lines. Once we had our script for the play-within-the-play, we started the final phase of adding in the fictional amateur world around the play.
It’s true, we’ve taken away quite a lot of the complexity and many of the red herrings that Agatha threw at the reader in order to bring the play down to a manageable length. However, I believe that we’ve kept true to the spirit of the novel and will still keep the audience guessing as to who the murderer is. We’ll also keep the audience guessing as to whether the poor hapless actors on stage will make it to the end of the play.
I knew from the start that I wanted to adapt the book my own way rather than use the existing play adaption of the book (Alibi). This allowed me to add the extra layer of the fictional amateur dramatics society, and that layer of comedy and mishap to the production. Working with Faeron as dramaturg was a big help because she could come in and interrogate the plot of both the Agatha Christie story and the extra story on top. It’s so essential with new work to bring in an outside eye to interrogate the piece and help you see what’s needed and what’s distracting. I’m quite proud of the script we produced together.
TCR: When is the production set? Is it set now (2023, South Africa) – ie the fictional amdram society – are they millennials? Is the play– Murder of Roger Ackroyd – set in English period setting? Can you tell us about the design – set, costumes?
SF: There are two time periods for the production. The world of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is set in about the 1940s, so we have the classic period costumes and that notion of the quintessential quaint English village. The world of the fictional amateur society putting on the show is fairly modern, giving a great juxtaposition between the “characters” and the “actors”.
TCR: Can you talk about this production being a love letter to amateur societies – who do it for the love of theatre? I personally avoid the word “amateur”. I prefer “community theatre”. You almost seem to be taking ownership of the term “amateur” – with love and caring – and elevating it as a genre (which it should be)?
SF: At Cape Town Theatre Company, we also tend more towards the phrase community theatre. Although, Faeron always says that the word amateur is nothing to be ashamed of – the definition is simply someone who isn’t paid to do the job. That doesn’t make you any less qualified or mean that the productions we put on will be of a lower standard.
With this production, we did want to pay homage to the world of community theatre and the many varied people who come to put on shows at places like the Masque. One of the best things about theatre is what happens backstage – the chaos of scene changes that go wrong, the actors who aren’t paying attention and miss cues, the mishaps with lines. These things will bond a cast and crew together with memories that stay with them forever. This is a large part of what I wanted to showcase and highlight with The Murder of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
TCR: What can we expect in the parallel text of the amdram society putting on the play – murder in the wings- how much work is involved in putting on a play?
TCR: The funny thing about putting on a play where things are designed to go wrong is that everything has to actually go right. Cues must be perfect and movements must be timed just so. We’ve put a lot of work into this and the cast and crew have come together beautifully.
For the “backstage shenanigans” that the audience will get to see, we had a lot of fun workshopping these second characters and what they get up to when they’re not on stage. We’ve got props going flying, relationships being formed and scene changes going crazy.
❇ Featured image – Stephan Fourie- director of The Murder of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. This play within a play is on at the Masque in Muizenberg, November 3-18, 2023. Book here: Via Quicket https://qkt.io/MurderofRA