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Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie, adapted by Michael Bakewell

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BBC Radio 7, 21 March 2009
 
This Poirot adaptation contained familiar elements - a self-adoring detective (John Moffatt) employing his "little grey cells" to solve an apparently inexplicable murder; his nice-but-dim police sidekick Colonel Carberry (John Woodnutt) who noticed clues but proved incapable of making sense of them; and a gallery of Anglo-American eccentrics encompassing an evil woman meeting an untimely end (Miriam Karlin) and an English Member of Parliament with a shady past (Jill Balcon). I will not recount the details of the plot; suffice to say that there were enough red herrings to keep an entire cattery well fed for a month.
 
What rendered Enyd Williams's production more interesting was the way in which it reinforced dominant national and gender stereotypes. Set in the Middle East in and around the ancient city of Petra, this adaptation showed the characters making no effort to adjust to their surroundings; they remained defiantly western in attitude. Christie implicitly believes in their moral and social superiority: Lady Westholme (Balcon) proves so versatile that she can readily pass as an Arab servant. Appointment With Death reaffirms the strength of the patriarchy, as Poirot freely manipulates the other characters; to him they are no more than pawns in the elaborate chess-game of solving a murder. In this adaptation Poirot communicated most of his thoughts in asides as he observed the characters while trying to find a chink in their psychological armour. As the self-appointed 'World's Greatest Detective,' every situation gives him the opportunity to exercise his powerful mind and thereby prove himself once again the master of his craft. Ultimately it didn't matter who murdered Mrs. Boynton (Karlin); it was far more important to recognize the strength of male ingenuity, which reached its apotheosis at the end when Poirot gathered everyone together and outlined the solution to the case step by step.