The Unexpected Guest By Bijou Theatre Productions

Paignton based Bijou Theatre Company have been delighting audiences since 1984 with their Summer productions of works by the Queen of crime, Agatha Christie.  After a hiatus due to the pandemic, the company has made a triumphant return to the Paignton Playhouse this Summer with a production of one of Agatha’s least known, but most effective works, ‘The Unexpected Guest’. This is a 1950’s play that has twists galore, an interesting cast of suspects, and an ending, that after more than 50 years since its publication, still has the power to make you gasp.

MIchael Starkweather is ‘the unexpected guest’ of the title, a driver whose car has gone into a ditch on a foggy night, and who, in looking for a telephone and help, has stumbled upon a murder victim, Richard Warwick, and his wife Laura, who claims that she has killed him. Starkweather decides he wants to help the attractive Laura, and helps her to come up with a plausible explanation for her husbands death, one which includes an alternate killer. But Laura is not the only person in the house that night, and there are others that may equally have a motive to kill the sinister Richard Warwick.


The action of the play is confined to one room, the murder scene, but that does not make it static or slow. The characters seem to be constantly on the move and the dialogue is pacy, at times frenetic, especially when young Jan, the victim’s half brother, is on the stage. The dialogue is taut, particularly in the opening moments between Michael Starkweather and Laura Warwick, and there are lots of red herrings which mean that your opinion about who the murderer is keeps changing right until the final moments.

The ensemble company are all very good, with standouts including James Mackenzie-Thorp as MIchael Starkweather, playing the role exactly right, as a presence you generally believe could take charge of a dangerous situation. Daniel Chambers is very good as Jan, the unstable bullied half brother of Richard, whilst Maggie Campbell is a calm, elegant presence as the victims mother, a woman with secrets of her own.

If you are in the Torbay area this Summer, there is no better way to spend your time than watching an Agatha Christie adaptation. The Unexpected Guest does not disappoint, it is well worth a look.

The Unexpected Guest

Paignton Playhouse Theatre

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 28th July

Click here for ticket information


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