From January 30th to February 9th, Mumbai audiences have been enthralled by a most novel production of mystery writer Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mirror Crack’d’, at NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha Theatre. This adaption of Agatha Christie’s book has been staged by NCPA Productions in collaboration with the Wales Millennium Centre and Wiltshire Creative Production from the United Kingdom.
Rachel Wagstaff has adapted Dame Christie’s book for the stage, and it has been reimagined for an Indian audience by Ayeesha Menon. Melly Still, the director of this play has introduced the story to Christie fans through an innovative interpretation of this classic novel. Ms. Still has chosen to showcase the story through the three different lenses, of three of the main characters in this play. This novel approach enables the director to play with some interesting rewinding and fast forwarding of events, and this contributes to a certain pace being maintained throughout the play. Joseph Alford, the movement director, has done a stellar job of ensuring that the actors’ movements are perfectly in sync, and always graceful in an almost ballet like style. This Roshomon like technique, whereby the audience gets to view events through the eyes of three different characters, is a most novel approach and certainly contributes to the slickness of the production. Kudos to Ms. Stills for her direction of this play. Incidentally she has earlier been nominated for both the Olivier and Tony awards.
It is the story of a house-bound, middle aged spinster, Jiloo Mistry (Shernaz Patel), who is visited by her friend and rival in crime, Superintendent of Police Daniel D’Mello (Denzil Smith), after a glamorous drinks party that ends in murder. Set in 1976, the mystery revolves around a fading Bollywood film star, Mamta (Sonali Kulkarni), who is making her comeback in films. Why did she disappear from the silver screen; why has she moved to an old Portuguese manor house, Casa Braganza, in a sleepy Goan town? And why would someone want to kill her?
The story progresses as events are recounted through the eyes of Dolly Braganza (Avantika Akerkar), from whom Mamta bought the House, Chikki, Ms. Mistry’s maid, and through Mamta’s own memories. We meet her adopted daughters Asha and Chandini, and the mystery further deepens when we learn why they attended the house warming party at Casa Braganza. Gurmeet, Mamta’s secretary and Jai her husband and Hilda Lobo, an ardent fan of Mamta’s and also a guest at the party, are other interesting characters that spur the story forward, and ultimately to its most surprising and shocking end!
This traditional whodunnit has been re-imagined to focus on the 'why' as much as the ‘who’. Replaying and re-examining events from a variety of perspectives, the unexpected staging explores how we try to shape our memories but end up being shaped by them. The music and sound has been designed by Jon Nicholls and the sets by Richard Kent are really quite innovative. With clever lighting and a most creative use of clear fibreglass sheets as a backdrop, Mr. Kent has managed to create multiple spaces most effectively.
Shernaz Patel, is spot on as Miss Mistry, a character obviously based on the legendary Miss Marple. She infuses the right amount of humour and ingenuity to her role and does it full justice. Denzil Smith is a perfect foil for her, and their constant banter when she insists on helping in the murder investigation, is most charming. “You are a spinster Miss Mistry, not a detective!”, says D’Mello! Avantika Akerkar makes a wonderful Dolly Braganza, while Sonali Kulkarni as the statuesque Mamta is perfect for the role. Everyone else in the cast seems to be very proficient in their respective roles as well.
After the show, this reviewer spoke to the director Melly Stills about how the play developed into this particular adaptation for an Indian setting. She said that she had worked closely with Aneesha Menon, and that the cast had chipped in with their inputs also. It seems Denzil chose the name D’Mello himself! Do look out for further shows of ‘The Mirror Crack’d’.