12 Days of Lesley Manville – 4: Poirot – Cards on the Table

In the midst of a luxe ensemble, Lesley Manville more than holds her own in the Poirot story Cards on the Table

“If I were to commit a crime, I should like to keep it very simple”

Spoilers from the off here, so you’ve been warned. If you’re a fan of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novel Cards on the Table, you might expect that Lesley Manville would have somewhat less to do than her castmates in this TV adaptation by Nick Dear, given she’s playing the role of Mrs Lorrimer. But ’tis a liberal adaptation and so she remains unmurdered, which is better news for those of us who are fans of Manville.

I love going back to shows like this from years past, to see how loaded the casts often were. In this episode alone, we get Alex Jennings, Lyndsey Marshal, Tristan Gemmill, Alexander Siddig and the glorious Zoë Wanamaker alongside Lesley Manville. Which means that if you’re not too much of a Christie purist, you can just luxuriate in some top tier acting talent having a ball under David Suchet’s watchful eye.

The set-up sees Siddig’s mysterious grandee Mr Shaitana host a dinner party, after which he divides the company into two groups of four to play bridge in different rooms. One group contains the soi-disant sleuths, Poirot, Wanamaker’s crime writer Ariadne Oliver, plus a superintendent and a colonel. The others are a more diverse group and it is in that room that Shaitana is covertly stabbed to death – whodunnit?!

It turns out that the ‘other’ four all have murky pasts, perfect for Poirot and co to investigate, and the way in which they unfold is pleasingly twisty and full of surprises (even for those familiar with the book!). As is sometimes the case, the denouement is a little hurried and too reliant on information not available to the viewer until the moment, which always feels like a bit of a cheat. Still, with a cast like this, there’s not too much to complain about.

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