A host of popular names from the TV and stage world are set to star in a murder-mystery penned by the queen of suspense.
Louise Jameson and Janet Dibley head the cast of the Agatha Christie classic A Murder Is Announced, which comes to Norwich Theatre Royal on July 3-8.
It all begins when an advertisement is placed in the local newspaper warning that a murder is set to happen in the village of Chipping Cleghorn.
A group of residents get together at the date, time and venue of the predicted death, and sure enough the lights go out and a gun is fired.
So who is the killer, why have they taken a life and what has led to it happening? Enter the ever-curious Miss Marple to try and unravel the mystery.
Taking on the role of the super sleuth is Louise Jameson who is known for a wealth of well-known TV roles including the matriarch of Walford’s restaurant-owning family, Rosa Di Marco, in EastEnders, and Susan Young, the long-suffering partner of the BBC’s popular Jersey-based crime-fighter Bergerac. She also still remains popular with devotees of the TV Time Lord, Doctor Who, after playing his companion Leela opposite Tom Baker in the Seventies.
Joining Louise in the cast is Janet Dibley, who plays Letitia Blacklock, who is the owner of the home where the murder happens. A versatile and popular actress, she starred opposite Nicholas Lyndhurst in the popular situation comedy The Two Of Us with other prominent roles including Lorna Cartwright in EastEnders and Dr Elaine Cassidy in Doctors.
The cast will also feature four other actors well-known to fans of popular small-screen shows. They are Tom Butcher who played the cocky PC Steve Loxton in The Bill and Dr Marc Elliott in the BBC’s daytime soap Doctors, and Sarah Thomas who played the mousey housewife Glenda Wilkinson in the Beeb’s long-running comedy favourite Last of the Summer Wine.
Making the switch from the cobbles of ITV’s Coronation Street to the quaint village of Chipping Cleghorn is Lucy Evans who played the feisty trouble-making barmaid Lauren Wilson. The cast will also feature fast-emerging actor Dean Smith who played head-teacher’s nephew Philip Ryan in Waterloo Road and also took over the role last year of William Elliott, the son of Sarah Lancashire’s character in Last Tango In Halifax.
The production is being presented by Middle Ground Theatre Company which has been touring shows across the UK and as far afield as Scotland’s Highlands and Islands for almost thirty years.
It has presented well over 40 different productions nationwide and worked with a host of top actors including Hollywood stars Kelly McGillis and Dirk Benedict.
John Bultitude, of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “We all love a whodunnit and this strong cast will bring the thrills and suspense home to city audiences with this classic tale.
“The producers have assembled some very experienced and versatile performers for the production. With no shortage of suspects and motives, don’t miss the chance to become detective and follow Miss Marple’s progress through a minefield of motives and red herrings.”

Dean Smith

Dean Smith caught up with Norwich Eye to tell us more about what is in store.

‘First of all, let’s talk about A Murder Is Announced. Tell us a little bit about what we can expect with the production’.
“This version of A Murder Is Announced is a lavish, stylish production with all the drama, humour and zest you’d expect to encounter with a Miss Marple murder mystery. You’ll be immediately transported into the period and into the front room of Letitia Blacklock where, in a strange newspaper ad, a murder is announced! Cue Miss Marple to come and help (or hinder) Inspector Craddock to crack the case”.

‘You are working alongside some incredibly experienced actors and actresses with the revival of this play. Are you looking forward to heading out on the road again?’
“I can’t wait to head out on tour again! It’s such a wonderful way to see parts of the country I wouldn’t normally think to visit. As a kid I always dreamt of performing on stage and on this tour I’ll have the honour of working in 16 new theatres in the UK and Ireland that I’ve not played yet in my career. And to do so with this company of fantastic seasoned pro’s? What a pleasure!”
What is it that you enjoy most about being part of a stage tour?’
“I’m lucky in that a lot of my work is for TV meaning a lot of my acting is on closed sets and done in absolute silence as is pretty standard for recording film. So whenever I get to go on stage and hear the laughs or gasps or rustling of sweet wrappers, I love it! It’s the idea that everyone in the theatre on whatever particular night is seeing the show for the first time and they take us as a cast on that journey with them. Brilliant.”
‘And are you a fan of the whodunnit off-stage? Are you an Agatha Christie fan or do other writers appeal to you more?’
“I love a good whodunnit. Modern writers such as Ben Aaronovitch and Dan Brown have taken a similar blueprint to Agatha Christie’s Marple/Poirot novels in setting up a thriller with a central character to root for. But, of course, my main girl Agatha is the queen of whodunnits and always will be. Did you know she only out-sold by the Bible?’

Looking back at two of your other high—profile roles, firstly tell us a bit about Waterloo Road. Poor Philip Ryan had a bit of a bumbling life but always meant well. What was he like to play?’
“Philip Ryan was one of my favourite characters I’ve ever played. I adored him. Waterloo Road was one of the first jobs I got as an 18 year old and so I threw myself into it. I auditioned with the idea that this guy was so desperate to fit in that he would do anything for approval and that, being incorrectly led, the results could be hilarious and heart breaking in the same breath. People still recognise me as Philip and I stopped playing him 7 years ago. You don’t forget a face like Phil’s.”
‘And was it fun to be part of such a high-profile show?’
“I had no idea how many people watched, and loved, Waterloo Road until the first of my episodes starting coming out. The reaction from people on the street or on my Twitter was absolutely brilliant. I was an 18-year-old having the time of his life messing about (artistically and professionally of course) with this gift of a character I’d been given. Not only that, it was also entertaining millions of people on a Wednesday night up and down the country. I have very fond memories of it. ”
‘You are also part of the cast of Last Tango In Halifax. Tell us what it was like working with such incredible actors as Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid and Sarah Lancashire as well as speaking lines by the amazing Sally Wainwright.’
“Last Tango – What a joy. Myself and the younger actors in that show are constantly pinching ourselves hoping that it’s not all a dream. First of all the scripts are incredible. As an actor all you have to do is stand there and say the words and it is poetry. Zero acting is required. Sally Wainwright is a genius who I adore and admire so greatly. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the UK’s best writers and Sally is right up there.”
As for the cast. I mean, wow. I remember a scene we did for the Christmas specials and I suddenly realised that me, a little nerdy awkward lad from Leeds, acting with Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Sarah Lancashire, Nicola Walker, Tony Gardner, Ronni Ancona etc etc who are all acting royalty. Every minute with those people is an absolute pleasure and I’m 100% sure they’d all say the same about me! Haha I jest. I learned so much and laughed so much and I hope we get to make some more.”

‘Finally a few questions about you. Firstly, tell us a bit about your work with Once Upon A Smile.’
“I am one of the patrons of the brilliant charity Once Upon A Smile which is a bereavement charity based in Manchester but whose wonderful work reaches across the UK. Basically we step in when families lose a child or a parent. There is a lot of support for people and families during illness or in the run up to tragedy but very, very little afterwards. That is when Once Upon A Smile steps in and helps the grieving process for families in whatever way they require. Be it respite, financial, emotional – whatever. One of the ways we raise money is by playing charity football games around the country. The team consisting of our friends and full of actors, singers and ex pro footballers play most weekends in the summer. Check out www.onceuponasmile.org.uk for any more details.”

‘And you are also a bit of a fitness fan. We are very jealous of your ability to do assorted triathlons, marathons etc. What do you enjoy about the physical challenge of this?’
“I started long distance running 5 years ago. As an actor I often have a month or two between contracts and I’m such an energetic little creature I can’t sit still. I decided to put this energy to good use and have been entering marathons and triathlons ever since. Not only does it give me the discipline to keep me focused between jobs but it keeps me fit and gives me an enormous sense of achievement. Being on a start line with some of my best friends and having 26.2 miles or a swim/bike/run between me and a beer is a challenge that I can’t get enough of.”

To finish, the inevitable Norwich/Norfolk question. Have you ever been here before for business and/or pleasure?’
“I have only ever been to Norfolk twice but thoroughly enjoyed it on both, different, occasions. I came once on a family holiday to the Norfolk Broads and once in 2012 with the Once Upon A Smile football team. I am so excited to come back and spend a week in Norwich. If anyone can point me in the direction of some lovely runs (and some lovely pubs), I would be very grateful!”


A Murder Is Announced, Monday 3-Saturday 8 July at 7.30pm, and Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets £7-£24.50. Discounts for Friends, Corporate Club, Over-60s, Under-18s and Groups. Captioned performance on Wed 5 July at 2.30pm.
To book, log onto www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000