Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Agatha Christie Poirot: Hallowe'en Party PREVIEW

Ariadne and Poirot (pics ITV)
Rating ★★★

Wednesday, 27 Oct, 8pm ITV1


Since 1989 ITV has produced more than 60 Poirot's with David Suchet as the smug Belgian.

There is no mystery in concluding that Agatha Christie's sleuth has his fans, that a hardcore of viewers relish Suchet's performance along with the period of steam trains, sensible cardies and roaring hearths.

Equally, there are many left bored by the formula, finding the implausible dramas as satisfying as solving sudoku puzzles, and 'Ercule Poirot with his GCSE French ('Oui,' 'N'est-ce pas?' etc), references to himself in the third person ('Poirot will find out all') and all-round pomposity simply naff.

C'est la vie (that's enough school French, Ed). But whether the series is considered a trick or a treat, it is back with a decent seasonal mystery that should delight devotees. Hallowe'en Party is dark and atmospheric, as should be expected from a script by Mark Gatiss (who not only co-wrote and starred in Sherlock this summer, but has his History of Horror on BBC Four, and is soon to be seen in The First Men in the Moon, also on BBC Four).

It features the return of one of Poirot's few female friends, crime writer Ariadne Oliver in an almost affectionate performance again by Zoë Wanamaker. Timothy West, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Deborah Findlay are among the suspects.

It is Ariadne who is attending a children's Hallowe'en party at Woodleigh Common when  a young girl, Joyce, brags that she once witnessed a murder. Everyone pooh-poohs her story, but when the child is found with her head submerged in an apple-bobbing tub, Ariadne knows who to call.

Poirot realises that even if Joyce was a fantasist she may not have lied about the murder, and that if he can work out which of three recent local murders the girl was talking about, he will be close to the killer.

Armchair sleuths will have to strain every little grey cell to fathom out whether a forged codicil in will, a missing au pair or a secret love affair is the key. 

Only six or seven Poirot stories remain to be filmed, and from what David Suchet says it is not only older viewers who will be saddened that the production line is coming to an end. 'I’m now getting letters from seven year olds who have suddenly got hooked!' the actor said. 'I recently sent photographs to two eight year old twins who come home from school and make their mother put on Poirot! In the same month I sent a box of chocolates to someone who was 94 in an old people’s home. Almost 90 years difference in age yet they are watching the same programme.'

Go figure.