Curtain Up: Agatha Christie: A Life in the Theatre
Dame Agatha Christie (1890–1976) is generally acknowledged as "the Queen of Crime"; her 66 detective novels (and 14 story collections) have sold more than two billion copies, making her the bestselling novelist of all time. A lesser-known aspect of her life is her work as a prolific playwright. Julius Green (How to Produce a West End Show) has rectified this situation with Curtain Up, an illuminating and exhaustive examination of Christie's 30 plays. Although Christie began writing plays as a teenager, none of her works were staged until she was 40 (a decade after her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles). Her theater career didn't ignite until she was in her 60s, with The Mousetrap in 1952 and Witness for the Prosecution in 1953. (The Mousetrap is still running in London, making it the longest-running play in theater history.)
Green, founder of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company, which has exclusive rights to Christie's original plays in the U.K., is a meticulous historian. He cross-references the "notoriously inaccurate chronology" of Christie's autobiography, and her nearly illegible correspondences and notebooks, with the papers, memoirs and interviews of contemporaries to follow each play from inception to staging.
Green believes Christie got more pleasure writing plays than novels, the theater allowed her to expand beyond mysteries into comedies and psychological dramas. When she adapted her Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple mysteries into plays, she distanced them from their source by dropping the detectives from the cast. Theater buffs and Christie fans will delight in this fascinating and well-researched appreciation. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant