Christie Meets Roper in Murder On Air


By Danielle Shields 

One of Scotland’s most famous duos, Tony Roper and Barbara Rafferty, known for their husband and wife counterparts Jamesie and Ella Cotter in Rab C. Nesbitt, are teaming up again, this time ditching the horrendous rags for posh robes to solve three Christie mysteries…

The pair will perform as part of the highly acclaimed Agatha Christie Theatre Company as they return with a week long runof Murder on Air at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal. On each date of the Company’s UK tour two other special guests will take on Roper and Rafferty’s roles, but how glad we are to see the Glaswegian duo together again. The Company will bring to the stage a unique set of three plays originally broadcasted by BBC Radio during the 1930s.

The performance will preserve parts of the radio production itself to give an authentic setting. However, adapting radio plays to the theatre does broaden the prospects of interpretation in order to suite this different platform. Although, this change does create its fair share of challenges, “Making sure that theaudience are included in the performing of the plays,” Roper describes as being the most difficult element of recreating radio plays on stage. “The mere fact that there is a body of people watching adds another dimension that would not be there in a normal radio recording confined to a studio. The two techniques are mile apart.”

This need to incorporate the crowd already drives at how the Company’s production will be unique from the original radio broadcast. Especially when The Steamie writer Roper has stayed clear of utilizing the original production into his acting technique: “I have not used any of the prior BBC broadcasts as a guide. It is more dangerous and therefore challenging to go with the mood of the present production.”

In its nine year history, the Company has adapted many of Christie’s back catalogue to the stage from Poirot’s The Hollow to 2013Go Back For MurderThis radio adaption is a unique fleet for the Company that they previously performed in 2008. The three plays in the trio will consist of: Butter in a Lordly DishPersonal Call and Hercule Poirot’s The Yellow Iris. Even the most avid of Christie fans might not recognise the former two. In fact, Butter in a Lordly Dish was only broadcasted on air twice in the span of three days. A recording of the broadcast doesn’t even exist. Also, The Yellow Iris was adapted from Christie’s short story Yellow Iris and it was the first time the famous sleuth was presented on air. With this range of an obsolete Christie tale to a Poirot mystery, it is sure to be a diverse experience for everyone involved, especially the actors who bring the characters to life: “The plots are so wonderfully interwoven and place a high demand on the performers to bring the audience into her world,” Roper said praising Christie’s craft as a writer.

Roper is no newbie to the theatre, from portraying Rikki Fulton in the play he co-wrote alongside Philip Differ, Rikki and Me, to writing and directing The Celts in Seville, which was first showcased at the Pavilion TheatreDespite this range of original material we cannot blame Roper for wanting to participate in a Christie trilogy: The fact that it is presented in the style of a twenties/thirties radio setting, which is the beginning of the period when the writer was at her peak. There is a sense of history in that which excites me as a performer.

While Scottish audiences are eagerly anticipating the return of two much loved actors, it is clear that Roper is equally thrilled to be working alongside his partner in crime once again: Working with the Agatha Christie Company and Barbara Rafferty,” the actor explains as what he is most excited about with starring in Murder on Air. I also look forward to presenting this format to an audience from my hometown of Glasgow.

Murder on Air is at the Theatre Royal until 12th July 2014. For tickets and information visit