Murder on the Links
Based on a Novel by Agatha Christie
Adapted by Todd Olson
Hercule Poirot gets a telegram from a businessman seeking help, but when he arrives in France… the man has already been murdered. What begins as a love story quickly turns into a murder mystery complete with jealous wives, jilted lovers, vengeful children, dueling detectives, and a constantly changing set of theories as to who killed whom. And what happened in Paris 20 years ago… and where did those killers disappear to? An early novel by the Mistress of the whodunnit, Agatha Christie, MURDER ON THE LINKS is an very changing thriller that will leave your audiences guessing until the final scene!
Murder on the Links – Reviews
The following cast can be played by 6 men and 4 women (see doubling schedule):
The famous Belgian detective called in by the man who would be murdered.
CAPT. ARTHUR HASTINGS
Poirot’s assistant on the case, accompanying him at his request, and the narrator of the story.
Detective of the Paris Sûreté and the investigating officer. Considers Poirot to be his rival and resents his involvement in the investigation.
Investigator for the Merlinville Police
PAUL RENAULD (aka GEORGES CONNEAU)
The victim of the case. Requested Poirot’s assistance for an unknown matter, prior to his murder. Involved in the Beroldy murder 22 years ago, in which he was the killer, but escaped justice when caught.
MADAME ELOISE RENAULD
Paul Renauld’s wife, whom he met in South America. Helped her husband fake his kidnapping on the night of his death; initially suspected of the murder by Poirot, until Eloise sees her husband’s body.
Paul and Eloise Renauld’s son, born in South America, and raised both there and in France. Mistakenly suspected of murder by Giraud, due to an argument between him and his father. Formerly in love with Marthe, now in love with Bella.
MADAME DAUBREUIL (aka MADAME JEANNE BEROLDY)
Renauld’s neighbour and blackmailer. Involved in plotting the murder of her husband 22 years ago, but escaped justice when exposed.
Madame Daubreuil’s daughter, who wants to marry Jack, unaware he is in love with another woman. She is the killer in the case.
Paul Renauld’s secretary. Absent at the time of the murder and has no knowledge on his employer’s past.
A stage performer, with whom Jack is in love, twin of Dulcie Duveen.
A stage performer and Bella’s twin sister, who works under her stage name of “Cinderella”. She is the love interest of Hastings during the novel.
Police sergeant in Merlinville’s police.
Local doctor and police surgeon in Merlinville.
An elderly servant of the Renaulds’ household, one of three servants present at the Renauld’s house during the crime.
A young maid of the Renaulds’ household, one of three servants present at the Renauld’s house during the crime.
The Renaulds’ gardener. Absent from the house on the night of the murder.
1.THIS PLAY CANNOT BE DONE REALISTICALLY
There are Myriad Scenes in this play:
While most scenes take place in and around the Renault manor, many others take place “on the move” – a bench between the homes, a golf bunker, a train, a London hotel, a theatre, a car, a ferry, a gardner’s shack, etc.
Because the world of this play lives in so many different locales this story should be told on a dark, bare stage, only populated with some essentials from Agatha Christie’s world. These items, when rearranged, can define different locations quickly. These scenic elements should include (but are not limited to):
*) bookcases which can be quickly wheeled to define another space
*) window units
*) a bay window or two
*) a terrace railing
*) selective ornate furniture
*) (if possible) flown tapestries, paintings
*) (if possible) hanging light sources (chandeliers, hanging pub fixtures, floor lamps)
2. LIGHTING MUST BE A SCENIC ELEMENT TOO
As the action moves freely either within or without Merlinville, gobos will provide sweeping moonlight, and sunlight through a variety of ornate windows patterns; bold lighting “looks” can help go from a London train to a golf course to a moving car, etc., leaving the most stunning “looks” for the Renauld manor.
Note on the Adaptation
Agatha Christe’s novel “Murder on the Links” slipped into the public domain on New Years, 2019 and was, in every way, an experience for the READER. My attempt was to craft it so that it could be a produceable, stageworthy work for the THEATRE, compelling for a live audience to SEE, theatre workers to PERFORM, and, to some degree, for theatres to PRODUCE.
Practically this, at the very least, meant that the story must be winnowed from 270+ pages to a lean and palatable 100 pages. That began by transforming her considerable character and scene (and sometimes plot) descriptions; sometimes that meant infusing what could be experienced live (lines, scenery, mood) with those portentous details, then cutting what could not be expressed in a non-literary form. I should also note that from the outset my intention was to stay faithful to Ms. Christie’s tone and plot.
Next I had to quicken the action, only because stage time is different than “reading time.” A reader can linger on scenes whereas the play must drive forward; a reader can put the book down, unlike the audience at a live event. You get the idea.
With that, I had to remove a kind of repetition that Christie frequently used, unencumbered by time, and, perhaps most of all, informed by a kind of old-fashioned British manner of expression. At six different times Christie in MURDER ON THE LINKS Christie revisits the “friends add it up” scene (in this case that’s Poirot and Hastings). In these scenes two characters revisit what they know so far and try to inch closer to the solution…but they also do something Christie-sneaky: she would use repetition as a way of obfuscating the trail to the solution – letting the reader tip-toe toward the ultimate answer of who-killed-whom…but then asking newer questions (or revisiting old questions) to throw the reader off the path – in any case requiring much more verbiage to accomplish.
By eliminating some of these redundancies (or literary strategies), the actions quickens, or rather, focuses.
Finally, the novel consists of 20 characters, animating myriad locales, together making it, as a dramatic work, unproduceable. MURDER ON THE LINKS has, in the past, been produced as a work for television or radio, but rarely a work for the stage. This version should be a delight for actors as only about half of the actors play a singular role and the other half play multiple characters, and in a story very much about the complications of DISGUISE (or “who used to be whom?”), it’s a perfect vehicle for 10 game stage artists.
My hope is that you will have fun, and Ms. Christie would have enjoyed in seeing her nearly century-old story come to life again.
Todd is the Supervisor of the Historic Palace Theatre in Crossville, TN. Before that he was Artistic Director at American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL. Todd has directed over 150 plays, musicals, and operas, including My Way (which he co-created) at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, and I Left My Heart (also co-created) at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Original works include Lysistrata, Casa Blue, the last moments in the life of Frida Kahlo, and Joe Corso Re-Enters from the Wings, which won the 2012 Holland New Voices Playwright Award at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. His new musical Section 60, the New Ghosts in Arlington enjoyed a reading at the Florida New Musical Festival, and his most recent ALTHEA & ANGELA will receive a reading at WordPlayers in Knoxville in the Spring. Todd received his M.F.A. from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and is a graduate from the Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard.
PROGRAM CREDITS FOR TITLE PAGE
Based on the novel by Agatha Christie
Adapted by Todd Olson
Licensed by Summerwind Productions, LLC
Box 430, Windsor, CO 80550
Murder on the Links – Audio
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Summerwind Productions, LLC – Box 430, Windsor, CO 80528 Email: Summerwindprod@hotmail.com