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Three female stars of stage and screen will bring to life the complex relationship between the world’s most famous crime writer, her best-known fictional creation and the actor who first brought the character to the screen.
In the early sixties two strong national treasures were the creative force behind one of British cinema's most successful franchises, but the Miss Marple films were almost never made. Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie didn't want actor Margaret Rutherford to bring her fabled spinster to life and Margaret Rutherford was mortified at the prospects of sullying her reputation with something as sordid as murder.
Murder, Margaret and Me is the story of the real reason why the acting legend and ‘the funniest woman alive’ didn't want to take on the role that made her celebrated across the world. Margaret and Agatha form an unlikely friendship filled with afternoon tea and gossip. Meanwhile Agatha turns detective herself as she becomes determined to unearth Rutherford's tragic and shocking secret.
This premiere production, which is at York Theatre Royal from Friday 17 February – Saturday 4 March, will form part of a year-long programme of work put together by an all-female panel which aims to redress the imbalance in women’s roles in both theatrical work and the industry as a whole. These productions, events and activities will run alongside York Theatre Royal’s spring and autumn 2017 seasons.
Nichola McAuliffe will play Agatha Christie, the world renowned Queen of Crime whose 66 novels and 14 short story collections defined an era of thriller storytelling. Nichola has won a number of awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Musical for Kiss Me Kate. No stranger to York, she has also appeared in Blithe Spirit at York Theatre Royal working with director Damian Cruden. Nichola recently appeared on television in ITV’s lavish series Victoria as the Duchess of Cumberland, but many will remember her as Sheila from seven series of Granada’s comedy Surgical Spirit.
Susie Blake takes on the role of Margaret Rutherford, the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress whose childhood in India was overshadowed by sadness and tragedy. Susie’s career on stage has seen her take roles ranging from Madam Morrible in Wicked in London’s West End to various Alan Ayckbourn productions at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre. She is well-known for one of her early television roles as the sarcastic continuity announcer on Victoria Wood As Seen On TV in the 1980s, and also appeared recently in Coronation Street from 2004 – 2006 as Bev, a role she reprised in 2015 following the death of Anne Kirkbride who played Dierdre Barlow.
They are joined by Indira Joshi as The Spinster, whose character narrates and leads the story, whilst bearing a certain resemblance to the legendary sleuth Miss Marple. Indira is widely known for appearing as Madhuri Kumar in seven series of the BBC’s The Kumars at Number 42. Indira has a career spanning vast sections of television, theatre and film and has had extensive experience in radio and presenting from the swinging 60's in New Delhi where she presented A Date With You to a range of drama in the UK. She was founder and editor of The New World Times in San Francisco which won an award from the Native American Journalist Association.
Murder, Margaret and Me is written by Philip Meeks and will be directed by York Theatre Royal Artistic Director Damian Cruden and designed by Dawn Allsopp.
Director Damian Cruden said:
I’m delighted to be working with three such wonderful actors. They have great experience in theatre, film and television and I am delighted that they have chosen to come to York to share in the creation of a new piece of work. They are three very funny women and I’m looking forward to spending time with them in a room which I’m sure will be full of laughter and no doubt some anarchy, it’s good for the soul! It will then be a joy to share the result of our time spent in the rehearsal space with the people of York. The play is at heart a mystery worthy of Agatha herself, there’s plenty of surprises and a great deal of fun and laughs. I can’t wait to get started.
Murder, Margaret and Me writer Philip Meeks added:
Margaret Rutherford and Agatha Christie were pioneers in a world where women creatives still constantly play second fiddle, especially those of a ‘certain’ age. Yet due to their creative brilliance they found themselves in their sixties at the heart of the biggest franchise in the history of British cinema at that time. I'm thrilled that in Susie, Nichola and Indira the play is in the hands of a trio of equally powerful creative women. They are the perfect team to bring Damian's vision for the production to life.
Murder, Margaret and Me takes place at York Theatre Royal from Friday 17 February – Saturday 4 March. Tickets are on sale now priced £30 - £12 (£1.50 transaction fee per booking) from York Theatre Royal box office in person, by phone on 01904 623568 and securely online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.