From classic detective novels and true crime television series to thriller films and mystery plays; the subject of crime is a significant and popular genre in entertainment. People have always enjoyed reading or watching their favourite detectives, both amateur and professional, as well as the lives and times of criminals - and the theatre as always provided a platform and willing audience for these thrilling stories. With hundreds of plays devoted to murder, robbery and blackmail featuring heroines, villains and sleuths, there is something for everyone.
Since opening in 1907, Darlington Hippodrome has always reflected and reacted to our audiences tastes. Over 4,000 plays have been staged in our 112 year history and over 15% of the productions have been dramas, mysteries, thrillers and crime plays.
Primarily known as a Variety Palace, the Hippodrome’s early years featured twice nightly performances of variety acts that changed weekly. Approximately 2,053 individual performers appeared at the Hippodrome in the theatre's variety heyday of 1907 to 1949, with 64% of all the productions during that era being either variety or music hall. However from the 1950s some of the Hippodrome's most popular productions have been murder mystery and thrillers, averaging 9 shows every year since 1960.
Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, the Hippodrome has hosted a Thriller Season - for one month in the Summer four mysteries/thrillers were staged. Often featuring popular Agatha Christie plays or adaptations such as Towards Zero, Spiders Web and Peril at End House, the season also featured other favourites such as Murder with Love.
Known as the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie wrote over 70 books featuring numerous surprising plot twists, captivating mysteries and famous fictional detectives such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Many of her works were adapted for the stage, the most famous of all being the legendary whodunnit The Mousetrap. Opening in London’s West End in 1952, The Mousetrap has one of the most famous plot twists in theatre, that traditionally at the end of every performance the cast ask the audience not to reveal so that future audiences can enjoy the surprise!
The Hippodrome has staged over 45 productions of Agatha Christie plays or adaptions including favourites A Murder is Announced, And then there were none and Death on the Nile.
Here are some of our favourite discoveries from the Hippodrome’s archive:
Find the Lady
22nd September – 27th September 1980
Staged at the Hippodrome in September 1980, this comedy murder thriller was very popular and played to a capacity of 105% in Darlington!
Taking the lead role of Rosie Lake “the slightly faded ex-actress proprietor of the Delamare Private Hotel” was Mollie Sugden, known for her roles in Liver Birds, Son of the Bride and Mrs Slocombe in Are you being served?
Dial M for Murder
1972, 1977, 1996, 2000, 2006, 2016
Dial M for Murder is a chilling thriller by Frederick Knott written in the early 1950s. More commonly known from the 1954 film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock, the play first opened in London in 1952 and has since continued to be a popular production. Telling the story of murder, betrayal and blackmail the show has been staged approximately 6 times at the Hippodrome and has featured stars Peter Davison, Sophie Lawrence , James Ellis, Ingrid Pitt and David Davenport.