Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A Mystery No Longer
2010 was a worrying year for the millions of fans the world over who delight at the announcement of a new Agatha Christie adaptation. One would be inclined to suppose that the enduringly popular Mrs Christie and the continued success of her Miss Marple and Poirot stories on television would unquestionably manage to secure her and them continued prominence despite current economic difficulties at ITV. It was, however, decidedly touch and go for the last eighteen months as to whether the fastidious Belgian played by David Suchet and the unassuming spinster played by Julia McKenzie would return for further sleuthing any time soon.
The period settings of both Poirot and Marple make them a great deal more expensive to produce than other popular murder mysteries on the network such as Lewis, A Touch of Frost and Midsomer Murders and period drama is often the first casualty when recession starts to bite. In early 2009, a miniseries based on EM Forster's A Passage to India starring Gemma Jones, Sally Hawkins, Matthew Macfadyen and Laurence Fox was abandoned at the eleventh hour due to its unavoidable costliness. And although people complain bitterly about their enjoyment of Downton Abbey being hampered more than ever this year by an unprecedented number of advertisements, the truth is that the future of the Abbey does not depend on Lady Cora's millions as we have been led to believe but on the money paid to ITV for advertising space during its broadcast. One hopes that a line will be drawn before the Dowager Countess begins extolling the virtues of a good life assurance policy to her granddaughters at dinner!
Happily, ITV announced last week that new episodes of Marple and Poirot will be filmed and will begin to broadcast in 2012. The excellent Julia McKenzie will star in an adaptation of the last remaining Miss Marple novel yet to be filmed for the series, A Caribbean Mystery, and she will also find herself shoehorned into two other Christie novels, Endless Night and The Seven Dials Mystery. This shoehorning policy allows audiences to enjoy stories that may otherwise not be adapted at all but Miss Marple's appearance can sometimes seem forced and unconvincing and undermine the original tale. The Seven Dials Mystery is a sequel to The Secret of Chimneys which was filmed for the last series of Marple so expect more from Dervla Kirwan's Bundle and company.
The very exciting news is that, with the commissioning of this latest series of Poirot, David Suchet's ambition to film all seventy of Agatha Christie's Poirot short stories and novels will soon be realised and deservedly so, in my humble opinion. It is a feat never before achieved and unlikely to be achieved again. The swansong season will feature adaptations of The Big Four, The Labours of Hercules, Dead Man's Folly, Elephants Can Remember and Curtain, the very final case in which the ailing Hercule returns with a dear companion to the scene of his first investigation. Suchet, who first starred in the role twenty-two years ago, will be joined by various veterans of the series playing des amis de Poirot including Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp, Hugh Fraser as Captain Hastings and Zoe Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver (pictured with Suchet above). One suspects that, as the jaunty theme tune fades away for the final time, there will not be a dry eye in millions of houses around the world.