Agatha Christie: Spider’s Web

Spider’s Web is a screwball drawing room murder mystery comedy mashup with bits of Christie’s own Bundle Brent books (The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery), as well as bits of the Hitchcock comedy The Trouble with Harry thrown in for good measure.  The result is an evening’s entertainment of pure hilarity — next to nothing intricate or refined (and Christie fans will be able to separate out real clues and red herrings easily enough), but definitely worth checking out.  As long, that is, as you stick with Christie’s original text and don’t go for the novelization by Charles Osborne, which (like those of two of Christie’s other plays, Black Coffee and The Unexpected Guest) manages to suck the marrow out of Christie’s work and leave behind a spineless corpse that is a mere shadow of the original, however much of the dialogue may be left behind.

I do recommend the 1960 movie adaptation, however, which currently — like the BBC audio of The Lie — is available on YouTube:  The screenwriter added a few explanatory / “setting the scene” curlicues at the beginning and the end (and Osborne’s novel promptly replaces Christie’s original ending by that of the movie), but both the plot and the dialogue are almost 100% those of the play, and so are the characters; only the inspector is decidedly more menacing in Christie’s play (but then, you just can’t expect Peter Butterworth to play a character like that as a straight-up sinister figure). — The play’s main character is  another one of Christie’s spunky young women, Clarissa Hailsham-Brown, the quirky young wife of a diplomat, who is chiefly known for her high flights of fancy, which reputation proves decidedly unhandy when trying to convince others that the highly unlikely sequence of events she is narrating to them is actually the literal truth.  In the movie, Clarissa is played by Glynis Johns.


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