Agatha Christie’s Marple

Wednesday, 15 June 2011, 8:00PM – 10:00PM

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? 

Miss Marple is back on the case with another murder mystery… 

Julia McKenzie is joined by a host of stars for Why didn’t they ask Evans?, the latest two hour film adapted from the Agatha Christie novel. 

The cast includes Sean Biggerstaff, Samantha Bond, Richard Briers, Warren Clarke, Natalie Dormer, Freddie Fox, Helen Lederer, Rik Mayall, Georgia Moffett, Hannah Murray, Rafe Spall and Mark Williams. 

Julia McKenzie said: “It’s very convoluted, slightly crazy and I loved it! I loved the gutsiness of it and the fact that the writer Patrick Barlow made Miss Marple quite brave. She’s in a room full of people who are about to kill and she dissolves the whole thing just by being chatty – she chats everybody out of a murder! I enjoyed that very much. The selection of the house used as Savage Castle helped a great deal, especially as it’s full of people unravelling. They were all absolutely eccentric, including the one who takes on the role of police inspector (Commander Peters – Warren Clarke). There is a real sense of danger there, especially when you’re with people who don’t have any conscience. It’s probably the most tense episode of all. 

I enjoyed Patrick’s dialogue and I do hope he will write some more Marples. He gave Miss Marple quite a lot of rhetorical sentences and I quite like that because she’s got time to think. What I’ve discovered I like is to find an excitement in the chase when I’m putting things together and the penny suddenly drops. I think Miss Marple really enjoys the fact that she is able to do this even though she has to put it on a plate and give it to an inspector – she really enjoys the fact that her brain works this way. 

Miss Marple is such an expert on human behaviour that she certainly sees the attraction between Bobby Attfield (Sean Biggerstaff) and Frankie Derwent (Georgia Moffett) coming. She’s a watcher and it’s the old thing that people who seem to disagree heftily at the beginning and are quite sharp with one another are obviously very attracted to each other. One has to make up more of a back story about Miss Marple than perhaps Agatha Christie gives but I suspect she had a ‘sweetheart’, as they’d be called in those days, who was maybe killed in the First World War. So I think she’s very happy for youngsters who are finding each other. 

As the sole witness to a dying man’s last words – “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” – Bobby Attfield (Biggerstaff) is determined to solve the riddle they pose. Forming an unlikely alliance with beautiful socialite Frankie Derwent (Moffett) and visiting family friend Miss Marple, Bobby’s resolve is strengthened when someone tries to kill him. 

A trail of clues leads them to Castle Savage and its strange inhabitants. The trio cleverly charm an invitation to stay at the castle from the other-worldly Sylvia Savage (Bond) and quickly capture the interest of her teenage children by the late, and loathed, Sir Jack Savage. 

While provocative Dorothy (Murray) seems intent on snaring Bobby, Tom (Fox) haunts Frankie with all the stealth of his pet viper, even though she appears more interested in the handsome music teacher Roger Bassington (Spall). Miss Marple, however, quietly observes the retinue of people connected to the castle – the controlling psychiatrist Dr Nicholson (Mayall) and his delicate young wife Moira (Dormer), the eccentric Claud Evans (Williams) with his hothouse full of exotic orchids and Wilson (Briers), Sylvia’s solemn, ever-present butler. 

Realising that Sir Jack was murdered; the amateur detectives navigate a hotbed of stifled emotion, treachery and poisonous deceit. But their theories are up-ended when Evans is murdered and the local Commander Peters (Clarke) makes a decisive arrest. If only someone had asked Evans… 

Why didn’t they ask Evans? is written by Patrick Barlow, directed by Nick Renton and produced by Karen Thrussell. 

Renowned for her work with Stephen Sondheim, Julia has starred in The Philadelphia Story at the Old Vic, and has achieved numerous awards, both on Broadway and in the West End. She won an Olivier for her performance as Mrs Lovett in the National Theatre production of Sweeney Todd. Julia has recently appeared in Cranford as Mrs Forrester and the critically acclaimed Notes on a Scandal. Earlier credits include Fresh Fields, Bright Young Things and Blott on the Landscape. 

Wednesday, 29 December 2010, 8:00PM – 10:00PM

The Blue Geranium 

Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) talks her way into the gentlemen’s club of her old friend Sir Henry Clithering (Donald Sinden) to ask for his help with a troubling case. She has new evidence about the ‘Blue Geranium Murder’ and needs Sir Henry’s help to stop the court hearing. Did the wealthy and unpopular Mary Pritchard (Sharon Small) really die of shock when the geranium in her wallpaper turned blue. 

Marple’s story begins a few months before, in the village of Little Ambrose, where she is visiting her old friend Reverend Milewater (David Calder). As villagers gather at the golf club to welcome the new captain, the generous millionaire George Pritchard (Toby Stephens), it is clear to Miss Marple that there are many tensions bubbling beneath the surface of this small village. Miss Marple observes George arguing with his brother Lewis (Paul Rhys), a struggling novelist who relies on handouts from his wealthy brother, while George’s agoraphobic wife Mary arrives with her attentive doctor Jonathan Frayn (Patrick Baladi) against her live-in nurse Caroline Copling’s (Claire Rushbrook) advice. Mary is grossly obese and suffers with her ‘nerves’, while all around her suffer her egotistical rudeness. 

When the sharp tongued Mary publicly humiliates the Reverend it becomes apparent how widely disliked she is throughout the village. Miss Marple also meets Mary’s cheerful sister Philippa (Claudie Blakley) and the Reverend’s niece Hester (Joanna Page), as well as local artist Hazel Instow (Caroline Catz), who arrives in a fluster. The welcome proceedings are brought to an abrupt end when a dead body is discovered by the river. Marple identifies him to Detective Inspector Somerset (Kevin McNally) as the strange young man she met on her bus journey that very morning. 

Some days later Mary’s fear that the colour blue would bring her bad luck, as told to her by a veiled fortune teller she had called to the house to satisfy her mawkish desire for drama is realised. She is found dead…and the geranium in her wallpaper has turned blue. Miss Marple cannot fathom how her death or the flower changing colour could have occurred, particularly as Mary’s bedroom door was locked all night. Then another murder occurs. Could the mysterious fortune-teller or a secret love affair help Marple unlock the mystery of the blue geranium? And can Sir Henry stop the trial in time before the wrong person is found guilty of murder? 

Monday, 27 December 2010, 9:00PM – 11:00PM

Secret of Chimneys 

Miss Marple accompanies Lady Virginia Revel (Charlotte Salt) to a weekend party at her family home of Chimneys, a house once prized for its diplomatic gatherings. That is until a priceless diamond was stolen there over twenty years ago, which left polite society scandalised as a maid had seemingly disappeared with the famous jewel. The tenacious career politician George Lomax has persuaded Virginia’s father, Lord Caterham (Edward Fox), to host a gathering for an important Austrian Count named Ludwig Von Stainach (Anthony Higgins). 

Virginia, who is the daughter of Miss Marple’s late cousin, must decide by the end of the weekend whether to accept George Lomax’s (Adam Godley) proposal of marriage or to follow her heart and pursue the courtship of another more adventurous suitor, Anthony Cade (Jonas Armstrong), whom she met recently by way of a fortunate accident. 

Lomax is dismayed by the odd array of guests who have been invited and castigates his affable assistant Bill Eversleigh (Mathew Horne), who has long harboured a soft spot for Virginia. Along with Miss Marple, there is the socialist spinster Miss Blenkinsopp (Ruth Jones), Caterham’s formidable and fiercely protective eldest daughter Bundle (Dervla Kirwan) and the quietly inscrutable and long serving maidservant Treadwell (Michelle Collins). 

Count Ludwig takes a personal interest in Chimneys and, after dinner, Caterham entertains discussions about the sale of the house, much to his daughters’ dismay. A deal is drawn up but, in the middle of the night, the house guests are stirred from their beds by security guards. The Count is nowhere to be found. The sound of a gunshot is suddenly heard from a secret passageway in the house. When the group investigate, Count Ludwig is found dead in the arms of Anthony Cade. Why is Cade at Chimneys? Virginia is left heartbroken by Cade’s arrest yet protests he is innocent – is her beloved suitor being framed for murder? 

Chief Inspector Battle (Stephen Dillane) arrives from Scotland Yard to investigate, instantly finding Miss Marple a key ally in a house full of suspicion and fear. Together they discover a coded message in the pocket of the dead Count’s clothing which could unlock the mystery. The discovery of a long standing affair between the Count and a mystery woman within Chimneys also ends in tragedy. And when the bones of a young servant murdered over twenty years ago are uncovered, Miss Marple begins to realise that the secret of Chimneys is darker than even she had realised. 

Monday, 30 August 2010, 9:00PM – 11:00PM on ITV1

The Pale Horse

The award-winning Julia McKenzie returns as Britain’s favourite spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, in The Pale Horse, dramatised from the novel by Agatha Christie.

Joining Julia are Neil Pearson, Pauline Collins , Holly Valance , Sarah Alexander, Nicholas Parsons , JJ Feild, Lynda Baron, Nigel Planer, Bill Paterson, Jason Merrells, Susan Lynch, Elizabeth Rider, Jonathan Cake, Amy Manson, Tom Ward and Jenny Galloway with a cameo appearance by Holly Willoughby.

iss Marple’s old friend Father Gorman (Nicholas Parsons) is brutally murdered after visiting the dying Mrs Davis (Elizabeth Rider). When Miss Marple receives a mysterious list of names through the post, sent by Gorman moments before his death, she heads to London to investigate. Detective Inspector Lejeune (Neil Pearson) and Police Surgeon Edward Kerrigan (Jason Merrells) puzzle over the killing. But when Lejeune dismisses Marple’s list she is determined to find justice for her friend.

Marple visits Mrs Davis’s lodgings where she finds an identical list of names on paper headed ‘The Pale Horse Inn’. The landlady Mrs Coppins (Lynda Baron) tries to help and lodger Paul Osborne (JJ Feild) provides a useful description of a man he saw on the night of Gorman’s death. But Marple comes to another dead end when a person named on Gorman’s list turns out to be recently deceased.

Marple visits the Pale Horse Inn and is greeted by watchful proprietor Thyrza Grey (Pauline Collins), her strange assistant Sybil Stanfordis (Susan Lynch) and cleaner Bella Ellis (Jenny Galloway). She meets guests Captain Cottam (Tom Ward) and his wife Kanga (Holly Valance), and their nemesis, local eccentric Roger Venables (Nigel Planer).

That night Marple attends a ritual ‘burning’ which remembers the famous witch Goody Carne (Holly Willoughby). There she meets the Cottams’ housekeeper Lydia Harsnet (Sarah Alexander), folklore historian Mark Easterbrook (Jonathan Cake) and attractive Londoner Ginger Corrigan (Amy Manson). Over tea the next day Thyrza and Sybil claim to inflict death by black magic, but they are cut short by a blood chilling scream from one of the guest rooms.
Marple’s fears that the Pale Horse Inn is at the heart of something very dark are realised when Captain Cottam is found dead in his bedroom. But are the murders really being committed by black magic or is there something even more sinister at work? Sensing the murderer is close at hand, Marple goes to dangerous lengths to test her theory. Will an ailing hound, a pot of face cream and an exotic love potion help Marple to bring the murderer to justice?

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