Whodunit? Find out at festival dedicated to Agatha Christie, the 'Queen of Crime'

She’s the best-selling novelist of all time, according to Guinness, and wrote the longest-running play in history. And now, ChristieFest celebrates the plays of 'Queen of Crime' Agatha Christie.

5 to watch for at ChristieFest, the 17th annual edition of RMTC’s Master Playwright Festival

Lorne Kennedy stars as Agatha Christie's most famous character, Hercule Poirot, in the Royal MTC's production of Black Coffee, the flagship production of ChristieFest. (Dylan Hewlett)

She's the best-selling novelist of all time, according to Guinness, and in terms of the world's most-published books, hers come in behind only the works of Shakespeare and the Bible.

And with 66 novels and 150 short stories to her name, Agatha Christie, the "Queen of Crime," is best known to most as a prose writer.

But she also had an impressive career as a dramatist — she is, after all, the playwright behind the world's longest-running production. The Mousetrap opened in a theatre in London's West End in 1952, and hasn't stopped running there since.

And it's Christie's work as a dramatist that will be celebrated during this year's edition of the Royal MTC's Master Playwright Festival — the annual event focusing on the work of a single notable dramatist, now in its 17th year.

As usual, a variety of local theatre companies will take on works by — and inspired by — Christie during the festival, with full productions, staged readings and lectures.

RMTC will present Christie's first play, 1930's Black Coffee, on its John Hirsch Mainstage — the first time the Master Playwright Festival has moved from the smaller Tom Hendry Warehouse.

Here are a few other productions of note at ChristieFest:

Dramatic Theatre presents Agatha Christie's most famous play, The Mousetrap, as part of ChristieFest. (Dramatic Theatre)
The Mousetrap (Feb. 8-12): It's the world's longest-running play for a reason — The Mousetrap is a taut and always-enjoyable murder mystery.

Local community theatre group Dramatic Theatre might not deliver a West End-calibre production, but regardless, The Mousetrap is always a treat for mystery fans.

The Hunting Party (Feb. 8-26): Local playwright and actor Marc A. Moir (who Fringe fans might remember from his hit one-man play Padre X) has crafted this mystery — which is not by Agatha Christie, but about her. This new work focuses on her mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926.

A Murder is Announced (Feb. 12): One of Christie's most-loved characters — Miss Marple — takes centre stage in this one-night-only reading, in support of the Performing Arts Lodge. Megan McArton directs what's promised to be a cast of "11 of Winnipeg's finest and most-loved" professionals.

The Inscrutable Fugue of Agatha Christie (Feb. 17-26): Leigh-Anne Kehler delivers another locally-penned play riffing on Christie's 1926 disappearance — during which some have said she was in a "fugue state."

Leigh-Anne Kehler and Eric Blais in Echo Theatre's production of The Inscrutable Fugue of Agatha Christie, which explores the mystery writer's mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926. (Echo Theatre)
This one's presented at Dalnavert Museum, which gets in on ChristieFest with a couple of other interesting presentations, including a Clue board game cocktail party, presented on Feb. 13 in partnership with Across the Board cafe, and a Feb. 11 film screening of the 1974 classic Murder on the Orient Express.

The Hollow (Feb. 17-26): Local playwright Frances Koncan and Angelica Schwartz direct an impressive cast of emerging and established artists in a production of Christie's play — about a murder at an art exhibit — inspired by Andy Warhol.

It's also already proving to be a hot ticket. The Rudolf Rocker venue seats just 30 people, and the initial tickets for the run sold out quickly — but a row of seats have been added for each show. Grab 'em fast if you want to see this one.

ChristieFest runs at venues around the city from Feb. 8-26.

About the Author

Joff Schmidt

CBC theatre reviewer

Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he's also been CBC Manitoba's theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.