Having arrived at The Anatomy Theatre, we were greeted with the smell of incense and warm dim lighting, immediately immersing us within the play. The Steward, played by Tahmid Rahman, instantly greeted us in character, making us feel as though we were involved in the play. Rahman’s presence throughout the play was impressive, and added a sense of calmness to the frantic performers.
With only three rows and the cast acting within close proximity to the audience, it is easy to say that it was an intimate play. The close staging and simple design made the play all the better. The stage design was perfect for the whole feel of the play, with the curtains and the shadows behind them adding to the “who dunnit?” feel.
Murder on the Nile follows eight characters through a murder mystery. Each character has a reason to have committed the murder and tensions build as conspiracy theories come to light. The play spans a wide emotional range with romance, revenge and humour. Everyone should see it.
Holly Evans stole the show playing the jilted, self-pitying Jackie. Throughout the performance she encapsulated this despairing, heartbroken character, with an enticing malice. Evans plays this bitter indefatigable antagonist, yet she performed it in such a way to show us that she is a misled vulnerable soul that just needs love. One of the strongest parts of Evans’ acting is how well her vocal resonance was: “You’re afraid of a scene, aren’t you? That’s because you’re soooo english… you want me to behave decently don’t you?”. Jackie’s taunting questions, said in such a venomous tone, convinced me that the role was made for Holly Evans. Moreover, Evans sings Frankie and Johnny in an endearingly devilish way, singing “he was her man, he was doing her wrong”, demonstrating the power of her lyrical tone and how much emotion she can convey; all whilst her intricately dramatised facial expressions remind us of her despair.
Canon, the humble priest, played by Phil Psarrakos, acted as Jackie’s moral compass, yet he reminded us that each character had their own tragic flaw. Canon had his own embezzling issues despite his constant effort to help both Jackie and Kay. Psarrakos played the well tempered, wise mentor-esque character in all its entirety.
There is a particular scene between Canon and Jackie that stood out to me:
Canon tell Jackie, "Be quiet... quiet, I tell you!"
Jackie replies, "Why should I?"
Canon, "Because this is how the devils in Hell laugh"
Jackie, rather painfully, "I'm in Hell, all right!"
The delivery of this dialogue, from both Psarrakos and Evans, was bloody brilliant, and something I think everyone should see!
Nash Metaxas played the cynical but cheeky Smith wonderfully. We get this perfect amalgamation between a scoundrel-esque character, with social idealist views, who is secretly a romantic at heart. Metaxasadded a boyish charm to his loveably rogue character. There is a particular scene where he adorably stumbles on his words with a simple “hi” as Christina walks in. It was one of the special moments where the whole audience laughed—or rather giggled. I think it was his suspenders that did it…
Hettie McIntyre played off Nash brilliantly in the role of Christina Grant. She played the sweet (and only noble) character in the play. This is a credit to her talent as the character is so undemanding and humble, it really requires you to have self-control and composition to play the nice girl.
Annie Nicholls deserves a worthy mentioned as she played the suspicious French maid to the tee. She was most definitely the most Agatha-Christie-esque character, giving me vibes of Poirot-like Frenchness; “what was I supposed to have seen?”. Annie played the maid in a wonderfully crafty way, with the pompousness of the French also earning quite a few laughs. Nicholls physicality throughout the play was wonderful as she moved around the stage sneakily, and completely owned it when delivering her lines.
Simon (Nazmul Islam) and Kay (Serina Ahmad) were an incredible duo. Nazmul mastered the weak, pushover archetype, making us see him as a seemingly hopeless romantic; while Serina epitomised the wealthy dazzling innocent. You could not help but be hypnotised by her jewels and beautiful dresses, playing this sun-like character perfectly. I would love to see the two work together again!
Jess Turner added comic relief throughout the play, perfecting the agonising aunt role. Turner played the role as a real physical comedian, filling the stage with her presence. Equally Josef Städter played the German skittish doctor wonderfully, constantly arousing laughs, even in the most sinister of situations.
The costumes were quintessential of their characters. Miss Ffoliot-Ffoulkes's clothes were particularly brilliant, with the extravagance of her character really embodied through her wardrobe. The matching colours of Kay and Jackie were also a really nice touch, with our eyes conflictingly being drawn to the two of them. Moreover, the juxtaposition between the dazzling jewellery of Kay, with the simple, fair dresses of Holly further make us empathise with Holly’s position, simultaneously adding a romantic light to her character as we see her in this feminine dress, making her look very delicate.
The lighting was luminously atmospheric. The contrasts between the deep blues at night and the reds in the more frantic scenes was really effective. There was also a nice orange tungsten lighting creating this comforting, intimate feel to the play. Furthermore, the music was beautifully chosen. As Goodnight Sweetheart played it really made me feel as though I was in a different era and added an element of romanticisation to the play, making you feel euphoric in the sound; yet it juxtaposed so brilliantly with the frantic tone of Murder on the Nile.
Production, casting, acting, lighting and a plethora more crafts are all a testament to the talent of co-directors Meg Hain and Jai Hooshmand. Each choice was made beautifully, with meticulous attention to detail. The radiance and chemistry of the cast is undoubtedly due to Hain and Hooshmand’s connection to the actors themselves, demonstrating their ability to unravel emotion from actors. I am really excited to see their future work.
Murder on the Nile, described on the programme as an “amateur production”, is easily better than a number of “professional productions” I have seen. This is not just a university play, this is a piece of art, in its own right.
I urge you to catch the last performance of the play. You will not regret it.The production is playing tonight, Saturday the 23rd of March and tickets are available here.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor