Running from the 15th August – 20th August, one of Agatha Christie’s most complex and emotionally powerful plays comes to the Grand Theatre.
Verdict is not in the traditional Christie ‘who dunnit’ format and comments instead on the complexity and relationship between of life, love and ideas. Professor Karl Hendryk is a leading scholar and lives his life according to ethical principles and ideals. It is through these principles that he is forced to move, along with his ill wife, Agnes, to a new country and begin a new life. He is bribed into tutoring glamorous Helen Rollander when her rich and influential father offers him potential treatment for Agnes. When Helen’s all-consuming love for the professor leads her to give Agnes a fatal overdose, the Professor is comforted by his long life companion Lisa Koletzky (Susan Penhaligon), however their relationship arouses suspicion and Lisa is accused of murder.
Rather than in her previous works, Christie is open about the murderer and her motives from the offset, which means that the focus of the play is shifted away from the murder itself and more onto how the characters behave and how their emotions unfold. Verdict is essentially a critical analysis of human nature, relationships and morality. Stepping away from her usual style, however, does not mean that Verdict loses any of the suspense and drama that characterise Christie’s other works. At various points throughout the play the audience noticeably gasped and the tension was unavoidable.
This was not just down to the play itself, however but the casts emotional and arresting performances. Susan Penhaligon brings a natural authenticity to that character and commands the stage, becoming one of the principal characters where she could have otherwise been overlooked. Rober Duncans’ Proffessor Hendryk is equally moving, with affecting performances and powerful outbursts of rage as his mental disposition visibly declines. Holly Goss plays Helen Rollander perfectly, capturing her childish naivety, glamour and cruelty perfectly. I especially enjoyed the character of Mrs Roper (Elizabeth Power), who brought an element of humour and charm throughout the performance and whose love of gossip ultimately led to the professor’s downfall.