On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about one of the many holiday productions currently running – Murder on the Orient Express.
Guess what everyone? It’s December 1! And you know what that means? It’s Blogmas!!
Unlike last year, I did stunningly at Nanowrimo this year. I clocked in at 50,5871 words at about 11pm on November 30. I am so hyped about my book and ready to keep grinding at it. Mostly because I just really need to know what happens next to my characters.
I am also excited to keep my practice of writing every day going, but refocusing a little bit to sharpen my non-fiction writing skills. And I had so much fun doing Blogmas last year, how could I not do it again? Once again, I can’t promise everything I write will be Christmas related, but y’all know it will all be fun!
Especially because this year December 1 is a Thursday, so that means we get to start out with an old classic – Theatre Thursday! And you read it above – I’m talking about Vertigo Theatre’s production of Murder on the Orient Express.
So, What’s Murder on the Orient Express all about?
Oh, y’all, it’s the old classic. This is Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novel, the Kenneth Branagh or the Albert Finney film, and now the Haysam Kadri play. I won’t spoil the ending. (Even though I think it might be hard to do because it’s such a cultural staple.) What I will say is that Murder on the Orient Express is such a well-known story that it makes it hard to organize my thoughts. And that makes it a very brave choice for Vertigo Theatre to pick.
It is a classic locked room murder mystery, except the “locked room” is a train trapped in a snowdrift in the mountains of Yugoslavia (the Orient Express, obvi). Hercule Poirot ends up on on the train completely by happenstance when a murder is committed in the middle of the night and every one of the first class passengers is a suspect.
I saw the 2017 movie. Should I see this version?
Because live theatre is magical.
The cast of this show is incredible and, while I would like to list the standouts, they are truly all equally well-matched. This script removes some characters and combines others. My favourite change involves making Countess Elena a trained doctor. You know I love it when women actually get to do things in stories! There are no weak links and every cast member very clearly brings out the best in everyone else. I will say that one of my absolute favourite people over the past 15+ years, Mike Tan, does a really fun Bouc and I have loved seeing him on the stage more and more over the past several years.
The set design [Scott Reid] might be the true standout of this production. In a locked room mystery, the setting becomes its own character. Scott Reid did such a phenomenal job of evoking both the luxury and tight quarters of first class train travel. You can’t tell from the production photos, but the set actually moves from side to side as different compartments are needed, which just adds to the overall feeling of “train”.
But most importantly about this production: my dear friend Kendra Hutchinson (dedicated blog readers will remember her) is the female understudy for this production! I don’t wish illness on anyone, but let me tell you… if she ends up covering any of the roles, I will be booking a last minute ticket and going to see this show again.
I did initially wonder if Murder on the Orient Express can be done as a standalone play. I think part of understanding Poirot’s journey and the weight of the decision he finally makes is knowing what type of person he is. He is a man driven by his passion for justice and the law. Like Javert but with less singing and less stalking. So without truly appreciating that, can you understand the decision he makes when the killer is revealed?
I also initially wasn’t sure if a play could truly communicate not just the tight spaces the characters are in, but the isolation. There is something about the movie versions where the camera pulls away from the train and you can see how truly tiny it is in the sprawling expanse of the mountains.
Of course, I can’t tell you whether or not the show works without knowing Poirot, because I know him. But what I can tell you is that this is a truly compelling cast, a fun mystery to piece together (or to see with new eyes if you are familiar with it), and the set is stunning and small at the same time.
I’m in! How do I see it?
Well, I’m glad you asked! The show runs until December 17th and tickets can be purchased by visiting their website or calling (403) 221 3708. Do it, yo!