Ottawa Theatre Review: Sock’n’Buskin Presents: Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express is a classic Agatha Christie murder-mystery. From Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s website: “Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed eight times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, the passengers rely on detective Hercule Poirot to identify the murderer–in case the killer decides to strike again.”

The Venue:

The Kailash Mital Theatre is located at the heart of the Carleton University campus. Parking costs about $10 for 4 hours and it is regularly patrolled (make sure that you leave your paid receipt on your dash!). There were signs in both the above ground and under ground parking directing you to the theatre so it’s not too hard to find. The theatre features comfortable chairs in raised rows, making it easy to see the stage from anywhere, but make sure to leave your food and drinks in the lobby.

The Show:

This adaptation of the 90-year-old novel was surprisingly, and fantastically, funny. Sock ‘n’ Buskin took a normally very serious play and put as much of a humorous spin on it as possible – and it worked! The performance was full of witty one-liners, running jokes, deadpan humour, and minimal – but highly effective – physical comedy.

That being said, the timing and direction of the lighting was off in several scenes, leaving actors either unlit while speaking or cast too far in shadow. Set changes took an inordinate amount of time between scenes with nothing to entertain the audience. The set itself felt like it was incredibly sparse – the windows, for example, could have had panes and snowflakes painted in them at the very least instead of being left primer grey, especially as the curtains on them were open for most of the scenes.

Props also left something to be desired. The fake cap gun could have had the orange tip painted black, for example. There were several small details that took the audience away from becoming totally immersed, but it was made up for by the individual performances.

Standout Performances:

Standout Performances include Dawson Fleming, who played both Colonel Arbuthnot and Samuel Ratchett. Despite playing two different characters, often in back-to-back scenes, he was able to masterfully differentiate between the two, both with a change in accent and in body language. You could actively see the different history and motivations between the two characters in his eyes when he stepped out onto the stage.

Photo: Zane Labonté-Hagar

I noticed that some performers did not project enough and it was difficult to hear their voices, even sitting close to the stage, however one performer who never had this issue was Hayley Forbes, who played Helen Hubbard. Hayley was also recently in Sock ‘n’ Buskin’s The Outsiders as well. While this is a similar character she played in both shows, just with different undertones, Hayley performs the role of a fierce, outspoken woman very well and it was a delight to see her commanding presence on stage once again.  

Photo: Zane Labonté-Hagar

A deserving special mention goes to Andrea Makris as Princess Dragomiroff for the excellent Russian accent and perfect contemptuous delivery, as well as Gabriel McAlpine for his comical delivery of Monsieur Bouc’s rising hysteria.  

Overall, Murder on the Orient Express was great! I really liked it and laughed the whole time! Despite some technical issues, I was very happy that I got to see it! At the time of posting this review, there is only one more show, as it’s run was only March 22nd – 24th. Keep an eye on the Sock’n’Buskin website for news of their next season’s shows!

Review by Chelsea Fowler

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