The Hollow cast

Chilly, clear autumn nights and Agatha Christie murder-mysteries go hand in hand. This year, Vancouver’s Metro Theatre has remounted their original Christie production from 1963, The Hollow. The large cast makes for an excellent variety of potential suspects for one murder that takes place towards the end of the first act. Personalities range from a book worm to a movie star. Enough plots and scenes unfold to the inevitable murder scene, lit by deep red stage lights and the sound of a single gun shot.

South West Marine Drive’s Metro Theatre is also a great venue for taking in an old-time classic such as this one, with oversized deep seats and characterful lobby, all reminiscent of a 50’s theatre-going experience. The stage set is cozy, with the warm glow of a fireplace and antique furnishings. Two doors lead out to the garden, with lattice woodwork and plants giving the impression of life beyond the visible portion of the stage.

The Hollow cast photo

It’s 1948, and Sir Henry (Paul Fisher) and Lady Angkatell (Alison Schamberger) are awaiting weekend visitors to The Hollow, their country home outside of London. Henrietta Angkatell (a strong performance by Megan Couch) is busy working on her latest sculpture, while Sir Henry is seated in an armchair, reading the newspaper. Each character’s personality begins to unfold as the first act reveals an unhappy, cheating husband (Dr. John Cristow), his unknowing wife Gerda, cousin Midge (Keara Barnes), Gudgeon the butler (Connor Ruther), Doris the maid (Serena Bickerstaff), and Edward Angkatell (Eric Biskupski).

There’s a love triangle at play, but Gerda Cristow (Marie Strom) has no idea that Henrietta and John Cristow (Joshua Knight) are lovers, nor that Edward fancies Henrietta. In the center of the story is Lucy (Lady Angkatell), the loopy, well-meaning lady of the house, who was our favourite of the cast. She singularly makes the homey, English atmosphere come to life in this production. She gets all the best lines in the play as well.

As the first act closes, we watch John being shot. The entire group hears the gunshot and gathers around the living room floor to watch him utter his last words, “Henrietta, Henrietta.” The deep red lighting and darkened stage add intensity to the scene.

To prepare the audience for act two, a notice is announced on the PA system: it’s from Scotland Yard, asking everyone to be seated, as the inspector would like to get underway with interrogations within two minutes. This effectively sets up the second act to bring in Inspector Colquhoun (Eric O’Connor) and Detective Sergeant Penny (Lucas Simon, acting the part of a junior to near perfection).

Gun in ashtray

Through rounds of questioning, Colquhoun discovers a red purse left behind by Actress Veronica Craye (Alexandra Wilson) and the suspicion mounts. The purse is quickly tucked behind a pillow on the couch by the inspector, and we’re left anxiously wondering when it will again be revealed.

Not to worry, the purse makes another appearance in due course, but in the meantime, everyone’s a potential suspect.

The classic tale of “whodunnit” finally comes to a close with a few surprises to boot. Standouts in the cast are Alison Schamberger, appearing by permission of the Canadian Actors’ Equity, Marie Strom, and Connor Ruther as the unassuming, quirky butler.

Kudos to Set Designer Tracy Chernaske and Lighting Designer Callum Erskine (I’d not yet seen a play with lightning before!), for bringing the English countryside so well onto the Metro’s stage. UK Director Joe Hinks makes his Canadian directing debut with this production.

On top of an entertaining show, I’d like to point out that the entire talented cast and crew are volunteers. They all work hard to make their time on stage look effortless, through comedy, drama, anger, and one guilty party in particular.

The Hollow continues at The Metro Theatre through October 26. See it while you can; we highly recommend this one.

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