Saturday, 7 July 2018

Ordeal by Innocence

This is a TV mini-drama in which Sarah Phelps has adapted the Agatha Christie book. It's played out over three hour-long episodes and was first screened by the BBC in April 2018. If you're quick, you can most likely still get to see it on the iPlayer.

In typical Agatha Christie style, it's a classic whodunit set in a monied, posh, big house in rural England with frightfully nice British actors performing a story which feels like it should really be on a stage. It's set in the 1950's.

The mother of the family lies dead on the floor. Somebody's fingerprints are all over the key evidence. The wayward son of a family of four adopted children (all grown up) was accused, committed and sent down for life. Whilst inside, he was attacked and killed by a fellow prisoner.

And so it unfolds. Audience fed information bit-by-bit. Some flashbacks to keep them on their toes and from hereon in it's really a case of getting to know the characters and learning what they might have to gain by having done it as we find more and more out of the backdrop. Of course, the direction ensures that by use of atmosphere and photography, glances, position and settings, everyone is presented as a possible criminal.

There are some nice twists and turns along the way, which keep it interesting, and the acting from the key players camp and fun. It seems obvious that anyone acting in an Agatha Christie Whodunit is allowed to have their tongue in their cheek throughout. Goes with the territory! Bill Nighy played his usual self and Ella Purnell stood out for me. I think we'll see a lot more of this English actor who was so good in Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It was interesting to see Anthony Boyle pop up as the wayward son, last seen in Derry Girls.

It's a jolly good romp, maybe a bit longer than it could have been, but engaging and enjoyable. The production and sets are excellent and reflect perfectly the 1950's rural England era. Some say that it wavers too far from Christie's book, but it's 35 years since I read it, so I'd forgotten it anyway! If you know it, maybe you'll agree. Recommended.

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