The Miss Marple mysteries have long attracted starry casts, with celebrities queuing up to leave audiences scratching their heads at an Agatha Christie whodunit.
That’s true of A Murder Is Announced, here at the Theatre Royal this week. It stars a number of famous faces, and we sat down with two of them to find out a bit more about the show: our Miss Marple, Louise Jameson (Doctor Who, Bergerac, EastEnders), and her co-star Dean Smith (Waterloo Road, Last Tango In Halifax).
How was opening night?
Dean: I think it went really well! We were blessed to play to (pretty much) a full house. Not only was it our first night here, it was our first night of the tour, and to open with such a bang was a huge pleasure. How was it for you?
Louise: Yeah, it was brilliant. Five bows, people were cheering – they seemed to love it. People love a whodunit!
Talking of which, were you both fans of Agatha Christie before this show?
Louise: I was actually, but I’m a fairly recent convert. Actually, I read virtually all her books as a teenager and was rather irritated by them, because I just wanted to find out whodunit without having to turn to the last page to find out! It was a bit of a necessary chore.
But then I did an eight-month tour with The Mousetrap last year, and I went round her holiday home in Torquey – and I got the Aggie bug! My god, she certainly champions women – and women of a certain age, because there aren’t that many parts around for us. She’s right up there.
She was very fashionable in the 50s and 60s, fell out of fashion in the 70s and 80s, and now she’s crept back in again. So yeah, I love her now. She’s very clever.
That 50s setting is quite important to the play. Are you enjoying dressing up in the period costumes?
Louise: Well you say period costumes, but I was born in 1951!
Dean: Yeah, but you weren’t born in a hat and a wig….
Louise: Virtually! We were put into things like liberty bodices, which were a hangover from the corset, a slightly boned, rather thick, uncomfortable vest. And of course I remember my gran wearing clothes similar to what I’m wearing in the play.
Dean: I love period jobs though, it’s what I always imagined about being in a play. You know, you turn up, dress in a variety of strange garms, then go out and shout on a stage for a bit! It’s different to some of those bang-up-to-date TV jobs you do, where you wear something you can pretty much wear anyway – I’ve often brought my costume home after a TV job!
In this, you really have a proper costume. You hold yourself in a certain way, once you’re dressed up in the suit and the shoes and (for my character) the glasses: it’s really good fun sticking yourself in that period.
Have you had a chance to have a look round Norwich?
Louise: Well not this time, but I have played here before and it’s beautiful. I mean, it’s almost impossible to get out of the city, the one-way system means you can’t leave the place in a car! But it’s just beautiful, yes.
Dean: Yeah, we arrived on Sunday, so I’ve been here a couple of nights. I’ve had a good look around, and yesterday I was looking around the shopping district – and it’s lovely, it’s really nice.
It’s different to what I expected really. It feels kind of older – but I don’t really know what I was expecting! I was in Norfolk when I was kid, sailing on the Broads and visiting Great Yarmouth, but I’ve never been around Norwich. It’s very lovely, very charming, I’m enjoying it.
It’s an all-star cast that you’re performing alongside – that must be nice?
Dean: [laughing] I’ve never heard of any of them, I don’t know who any of these people are!
Louise: Actors is actors. It doesn’t matter who you are, you come to the job and you get on with it. But of course, it’s nice to have some high-profile names. Actually, I’ve worked with Janet Dibley before, so it was lovely to get an email from her saying ‘we’re on the road again!’
It’s a lovely company actually – and I’m not just saying that, they really are. Because it just takes one person –
Dean: Oh yeah, and they can ruin the whole vibe. But from my point of view, as someone who is just starting out, it’s lovely to work with people who’ve been working for a while. I enjoy the anecdotes and stories as much as I do the work! It’s lovely, because you learn how to behave backstage and in rehearsal as much as you do onstage.
I’m a sponge anyway, I love people, I love people-watching. So when you come to a cast like this where, everyone’s a great actor, but also they’re all just brilliant, nice people – you’re bound to learn, and that can only be a good thing for anyone.
Louise: Yeah, in this business, you never stop learning.
See Louise and Dean in A Murder Is Announced. It’s here until Saturday and tickets are still available.