Posts from 5th November 2007

Nov 07

Unexpected Agatha Enema

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Last week I went to Hackney Empire to see The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie, produced by Bill Kenwright. The play was written in 1958. I’m not clear how faithful to the original script this production is, but it had a few signs, mainly of the linguistic variety that it had been adapted somewhat for a modern audience (a particular example being the detective uttering a distinctly Alf Stewart-esque ‘strewth’, which didn’t strike me as especially Christie-ish). This modernisation sits poorly with the character of Jan, here played by Robbie from Eastenders, who is ‘retarded’ (their words). The attitude towards Jan is passively tolerant, but underlaid with a sense that it’s ok to laugh at people with learning difficulties. There are a few explicit statements this effect, but the humour was mainly derived from dramatic rolling of eyes and knowing looks at the audience from cast members. I can accept that the use of ‘retarded’ was meant to be of its time, and possibly the dubious attitude too, but given the modernization in other areas of script previously mentioned, this approach seems distasteful (to me at least, there were plenty of people laughing in the audience). Dean Gaffney’s approach to portraying Jan was to use babytalk and put on a silly voice, which was just excruciating and just a little bit insulting. It certainly wasn’t essential to the plot.