Thursday, February 9, 2023
February 9, 2023

GISS murder mystery entertains crowds

Gulf Islands Secondary School performing arts programs have suffered along with the rest of the live entertainment field due to COVID-19 restrictions in the past few years.

So it’s no wonder the students in grades 10-12 appeared to be having so much fun on the ArtSpring stage in front of a full house last Thursday night for their production of Murder on the Orient Express.

Adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel for stage by Ken Ludwig, this was a technically complex show, with lots of scene and lighting changes, background music and sound effects, and a highly effective use of screens and rolling images to illustrate snow falling outside the train’s windows. The props and costumes instantly transported us back to 1934 in Europe. The technical crew deserves accolades for putting together such a visual and aural feast throughout. Some students also had both behind-the-scenes and on-stage roles.

If I had seen any film versions based on Christie’s famous story in the past, I had certainly forgotten the “who actually did it” part of the story. That let me thoroughly enjoy letting my imagination follow along with famous detective Hercule Poirot and the train’s passengers and crew as the complicated story unfolds. We are certainly as suspicious as Poirot, who finds himself drowning in clues after the murder of Samuel Ratchett (played by Luisa McCarvill-Russo), puzzled by which ones are useful for solving the crime.

Tadhag White played Hercule Poirot, with an unemotional and logical demeanour that worked beautifully and contrasted effectively with some of his high-strung or even hysterical trainmates. (They were, notably, Olivia Das, playing Mary Debenham, Sonja Reynolds as Greta Ohlsson and Olive Goddard as Helen Hubbard, who raised tensions in a split second with a scream or hyperbolic statement or gesture.)

White’s closing monologue, where he ponders the ethical impacts of his decision to not turn in the murderous gang, was particularly effective. By then we really knew his character and how difficult a dilemma it would be for him.

The play also had a number of funny moments, such as Monsieur Bouc (Nick Rankin) having to repeatedly correct declarations that Poirot was a “Frenchman” when he is actually from Belgium.

The international flavour of the story also came through well with the actors using various accents convincingly. And kudos to Clara Wardlaw for executing the role of Hector MacQueen when Makenna Taylor was unable to take the stage as planned.

Friday night’s show was also sold out.

GISS dancers present their term-end show tonight (Jan. 11) and Thursday night at ArtSpring at 7:30 p.m. The high school’s music students then take the stage next Wednesday-Thursday (Jan. 18-19), also at 7:30 p.m.

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