Reliving Agatha Christie at Witness for the Prosecution

I’m a child of the ’90s—when I was growing up, it was all about the Spice Girls, Titanic, Y2K and Friends. Agatha Christie wasn’t even a consideration when it came to books, because Harry Potter had arrived and we were all busy with our Furbies. I read Agatha Christie for the first time when I was 22 years old and discovered And Then There Were None, one of the bestselling books of all time.

And Then There Were None is a child of its time—racist references and pejorative terms pervade the earlier versions of the text and even in the 2000s, the writing feels old. In the 1930s and ’40s, reviews lauded the originality and genius of Christie, who was prone to surprise endings, plot twists, and intrigue. For a child of the ’90s, where amazing twists and turns are par for the course, Christie can seem old-fashioned—until you realise that plot twists were the wheel she invented and perfected in pursuit of her craft.

Living in London, it seems a shame to not see more of Christie’s work, given that The Moustrap has been on stage here since 1952. When Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot took to the screen in 2017 in Murder on the Orient Express, I went to see it in Leicester Square. Neither item breaks the mould of modern cinema or theatre, but there’s no denying that Christie’s stories pull even the most contemporary reader in. Her plots are where the crime genre became a kingmaker, with intelligent storylines and a mass appeal—especially in the UK, where many stories were serialised in newspapers over a period of weeks or even months. It’s hard to imagine the excitement people might have had for the next snippet—not unlike today’s fandoms when a film trailer everyone has waited ages for pops onto a screen. Star Wars, anyone?

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