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April 2, 2010

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Mystery in Mandarin for the famous Poirot

THIS year is the 120th anniversary of legendary crime writer Agatha Christie. "And it is also the 80th anniversary of Hercule Poirot, one of the most famous and longest-lived characters created by Christie," says Zhang Yu, director of the Shanghai Modern People's Theater.

In recent years, the theater group has staged a series of sold-out Christie plays in Mandarin in the city.

He says the fictional Belgian detective has appeared in 33 novels and 51 short stories by Christie, but in only one stage play.

That work, "Black Coffee," is being staged at the Xinguang Film Art Center by the group until May 9.

It is the first time the play is performed in Mandarin.

"It is also the first play Christie wrote to be staged back in 1930, from which she launched a successful second career as a playwright." Zhang adds.

In the play, Poirot and his friend Arthur Hastings visit famous physicist Sir Claud Amory, only to find that he was murdered before they arrive.

Amory had a secret formula of great importance which has been stolen. He gathers all his house guests together. The servant is asked to lock all the doors so that nobody can escape.

He tells everyone that Poirot is on the way to investigate the robbery, but if the suspect returns the formula, he will let bygones be bygones.

Then he instructs the lights to be turned off. When they are switched back on, the formula is found on the table, but Sir Claud is dead. Everyone is startled - "who is the murderer?"

In the Mandarin debut, Poirot is performed by veteran film director and actor He Yong.

It will be his first theater play since he graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in the 1980s.

"I look forward to the role," he says. "I used to think that I was neither good-looking nor tall enough to be an actor when I was in the school, until one day I read about Hercule Poirot. He's not good looking; he's short, but he's witty and remains a classic character.

"In fact, Hercule Poirot did help me find confidence at the very beginning of my career," he says.

He will be joined by a group of young actors and actresses from Actors' Training Program at the Shanghai Film Studio.

Zhang says that, apart from "Black Coffee," two more Christie plays, "Towards Zero" and "Spider's Web," will also be staged at the Xinguang Film Art Center this year.

Located on Ningbo Road, off the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Mall, the 320-seat theater in a 1930s building has been renovated to become the city's first "whodunit theater." It stages Agatha Christie mysteries and other detective plays on a regular basis.

Date: through May 9 (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), 7:30pm

Address: 586 Ningbo Rd

Tickets: 100-280 yuan

Tel: 6422-0926


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