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EastEnders actress stars as bizarrely entwined lives of Christie and Rutherford unfurl on stage

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 August 2019

EastEnders star Lin Blakley prepares for a role of a lifetime playing Agatha Christie on stage. Picture: Craig Sugden

EastEnders star Lin Blakley prepares for a role of a lifetime playing Agatha Christie on stage. Picture: Craig Sugden

CRAIG SUGDEN

The astonishing works of Agatha Christie have never gone out of fashion and next month the Churchill Theatre, Bromley is welcoming a quirky comedy about her life.

Lin as she gets into her role as the Queen of Crime. Picture: Craig SugdenLin as she gets into her role as the Queen of Crime. Picture: Craig Sugden

Lin Blakley stars in the UK tour of Murder, Margaret and Me which will be at the Churchill between September 26 and 28.

The EastEnders actress will be stepping into the shoes of Agatha Christie for the national tour of Philip Meeks' critically acclaimed play.

And it is premiering at the Churchill being directed by Damian Cruden, who is artistic director at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre.

The cast also includes Sarah Parks (Coronation Street; Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Company) as Margaret Rutherford and Gilly Tompkins (Gangsta Granny, Garrick Theatre and National Tour; The 3 Emos, Smashing Mirrors Theatre) as the Spinster.

Murder, Margaret and Me is the story of an unlikely friendship between famed actress Margaret Rutherford and the world-renowned Queen of Crime.

In the early sixties, these two national treasures were the creative force behind one of British cinema's most successful franchises, with Rutherford as Miss Marple.

But the movies were almost never made.

Both these much-loved icons were shrouded in mystery; Margaret held a dark family secret, and Agatha mysteriously went missing for 10 days, which has continued to baffled conspiracy theorists. Through exploring their tumultuous relationship, the play seeks to pay homage to these two great women and their hidden histories.

Murder, Margaret and Me is a story of the achievement of women in the long lost world of the silver screen.

Having completed extensive research writer Philip Meeks has used original letters from Agatha to Stringer Davies to authenticate his story.

He said: "It transpires the two great women had forged a relationship beyond their awkward meeting on the set of Marple. I've been able to refer to an amazing archive of letters in this version of the play. It makes me feel even more that what I've written is as I intended it to be, a play paying homage to the two great women."

And he added: "Theatre is all about collaboration and I'm very pleased my old collaborator Damian Cruden is recreating his production of Murder Margaret and Me with such a great cast. Damian really helped to shape the play and it's always a joy to work with him."

The Stage said of the production: "Fortunately there's a clued-up sense of respectful inquiry in Philip Meeks' reworked murder mystery, that began as an Edinburgh Fringe solo show and now not only brings these two successful women together to imagine how their relationship might have developed from mutual distrust to mutual respect, but also introduces a nosy Miss Marple figure who discovers enough evidence to prove that their creative impulses were informed by a shared sense of vulnerability and sadness."

Lin - who played undertaker's wife Pam Coker in EastEnders, said: "The play is about two women who are extremely famous in their own right, who at first meeting didn't exactly care for one another. Over the years they grew to have a huge respect for one another and become firm friends."

As for her preparation for the part, she said: "I have read and researched her life, which was so very colourful and interesting. I got to know her through that, and of course through Philip Meeks' superb writing.

"I think young or older audiences will love it as there's something in it for everyone. Humour! Drama! Poignant moments. It's all very interesting."

As for a dream role, she said: "I would really love to be in a new series from the beginning. I'd love to be in a sketch show playing all different characters. Voice an animated character. Tell bedtime stories on Ceebeebies. Also, I really would love to play Miss Marple for TV.

"After this play is over, I'll hopefully be popping back to EastEnders and then a little more TV. And fingers crossed some more theatre very soon. I'm greedy I want to do it all."

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