THE 20th century’s leading female crime writer Agatha Christie would possibly turn in her grave if she knew that decades after her death in 1976 her work would become the butt of theatrical comic capers.

Following 2018's sell-out smash hit Crimes Under the Sun, Bath's multi-award-winning theatre company, New Old Friends, has returned to the Theatre Royal’s Ustinov with another hilariously inventive comedy thriller based on Christie’s novel, Death on the Nile.

Belgian detective extraordinaire, Artemis Arinae, excellently played by Kirsty Cox, is set to enjoy a holiday cruise along the River Nile when tragedy strikes once more. All the passengers and staff aboard are suspects, and the murder count is growing, but will Arinae’s little grey cells identify the murderer in time?

Four hyperactive actors, led by company founder Feargus Woods Dunlop and his wife and co-founder Heather Westwell, work at breakneck speed around the familiar plot of murder aboard the Nile cruise boat.

In the many film versions, a whole cast of famous names, including Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Maggie Smith, Simon MacCorkindale, David Niven and George Kennedy have been among those playing the leading roles.

But Dunlop only has three other performers – Heather Westwell, Kirsty Cox and Fergus Leathem – to play all 12 characters in this whodunnit romp around the Ustinov stage.

If you can imagine the British sitcom Allo, Allo meets Agatha Christie, you will begin to understand why New Old Friends’ productions are so popular.

Crimes on the Nile is utterly irreverent and hilariously funny slapstick comedy, with three doors and suitcases full of props and costume changes thrown in for good measure.

Allo, Allo fans will revel in the caricature American, Belgian, German, Scottish and Welsh accents, double entendres and general mayhem happening on stage. There are silly gags aplenty and the changes from one character to another are dizzyingly confusing.

Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is morphed into lady detective Artemis Arinae, played by Cox with a delightful authority that does full justice to those “little grey cells”.

But the outstanding performances for me came from Dunlop, Westwell and Leathem, if only for the breakneck speed at which they switched from one character to another without forgetting their lines or who they were supposed to be.

Director James Farrell has conjured up a wonderfully creative show that makes the most of the cast, the set, the costumes and the music and in which virtually every scene poses its own unique set of challenges.

Crimes on the Nile has opened with an exclusive three-week run in Bath before heading out on a national tour of 22 venues stretching from Barnstaple to Inverness.

The production runs in Bath until January 26 with performances starting at 7.45pm, and matinees on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2.30pm. To book, call 01225 448844, or online at

If you don’t manage to catch it in Bath, try seeing it at the Barn Theatre in Cirencester from January 29 to February 2. It’s well worth a visit for two hours of unbridled laughs.