Who­dun­nit? Even Agatha Christie wouldn’t know

Great-grand­son of thriller writer says let­ting BBC change plot was one of the hard­est de­ci­sions of his life

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Anita Singh ARTS AND EN­TER­TAIN­MENT ED­I­TOR

THE great-grand­son of Agatha Christie has ad­mit­ted that al­low­ing a screen­writer to change the end­ing of Or­deal by In­no­cence was one of the hard­est de­ci­sions of his life.

The BBC adap­ta­tion reaches its con­clu­sion tonight, but read­ers fa­mil­iar with the orig­i­nal 1958 novel will find it un­recog­nis­able.

Sarah Phelps, the screen­writer, has changed the iden­tity of the killer, much to the an­noy­ance of some Christie fans and the au­thor’s bi­og­ra­pher, who ac­cused Phelps of “at­tach­ing Agatha’s box-of­fice name” to a new story.

How­ever, James Prichard, who suc­ceeded his fa­ther as chair­man of the Agatha Christie es­tate in 2015 and had power of veto over the script, said he de­cided to break the com­pany’s “golden rule” and al­low a dif­fer­ent mur­derer.

“It was prob­a­bly one of the hard­est de­ci­sions I’ve taken in my work­ing life. But in the end it felt right,” he said. “Yes, we will up­set a lot of my great­grand­mother’s fans and to some ex­tent I apol­o­gise to them and to some ex­tent I don’t.

“All the way through, with Sarah, I was adamant that this was not some­thing that was on the ta­ble. It went through many drafts. Even­tu­ally I had a con­ver­sa­tion with my fa­ther and said: ‘I’ve just read an­other draft and it feels like [this char­ac­ter] ought to be the killer.’ He said: ‘Why keep fight­ing it if that’s the case?’”

In fact, he be­lieves Christie would have ap­proved of the change, as she was not averse to rewrites.

“I do live by the mantra that my great-grand­mother un­der­stood things needed to be changed for dif­fer­ent me­dia,” he said, point­ing out that Christie wrote a new “hap­pier” end­ing for one of her most fa­mous sto­ries, And Then There Were None, when she adapted it for the stage in the For­ties.

“She had worked out how to trick a book au­di­ence, but do­ing that in a theatre is dif­fer­ent,” he ex­plained.

A bi­og­ra­pher of Christie, Laura Thomp­son, said last week that “chang­ing the iden­tity of the mur­derer, how­ever good for public­ity, is a bit much. There’s a lot of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and sub­tlety in the orig­i­nal so­lu­tion.”

Fans have com­plained about the new end­ing on so­cial me­dia – de­spite not know­ing who the killer is – and in­sisted that “Agatha knows best”.

In a re­cent in­ter­view Phelps, who is work­ing on a Christ­mas tele­vi­sion ver­sion of Christie’s Her­cule Poirot mys­tery The ABC Mur­ders, said: “I try to hon­our the spirit of the writer. But I can’t be ner­vous. If I did I wouldn’t do it.”

‘Yes, we will up­set a lot of her fans and to some ex­tent I apol­o­gise to them and to some ex­tent I don’t’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.