Rugby Theatre review: Rule of Three is a tour de force of Christie thrillers

Jonathan Pollard and Nicky Main in Rule of Three
Jonathan Pollard and Nicky Main in Rule of Three
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Ed Green reviews Rule of Three at Rugby Theatre

Agatha Christie’s Rule of Three comprises a scoundrel-style jewellery theft, sinister frame up and a risky entrapment. Ranging from 30 minutes to an hour, these short plays are not just enjoyable but intriguing, inviting audiences to turn detective too. In 1950’s ‘Afternoon at the Seaside’ the humour is sharp and perfectly timed – look out for George Crum (Michael Lynch) with a telescope and the delightfully subtle banter between Mrs Gunner (Bev Avis Dakin) and Mrs Crum (Senga Veasey). However a wonderful last minute twist will catch the less observant off guard.

Moving into 1930s extramarital affairs, The Rats provides an intense ethical quagmire as a cunning framing takes place with only four characters but my favourite performance. Nicky Main excels, as her character slowly shifting from nonchalant adulterer to panic-stricken guilty party. Jonathan Pollard as David Forrester is more accepting of his fate but nonetheless projects his anxieties brilliantly as the plot unfolds. Jennifer Bryce (Ruth Long) is fantastically snide as the classic acquaintance who somehow ‘just knows’. Alec Hanbury (Alex Brown) unlocks the story with only a few lines.

Lastly, The Patient, set in a 1950s hospital. bridges the gap between cutting-edge technology and good old fashioned police work. With four main suspects, Christie throws the audience off the scent deftly and only in the last moment is the perpetrator exposed. Dr Ginsberg (Michael Lynch) and Inspector Gray (Nick Marsh) have fluid chemistry attempting to keep a feuding family orderly while an experiment to oust the would-be murderer is performed. This had well chosen props of the time and all actors used the space well for a confined area.

This is a Herculean undertaking but director Mike Allen and stage manager Teresa Holborow have worked wonders. Well worth a watch.

* Rule of Three runs until Saturday October 1. Call (01788) 541234 to book.