Agatha Christie’s “The Unexpected Guest” written in 1958 still enthralls and captivates
On a foggy night, Michael Starkwedder enters the home of the Warwicks through a window in the study. There lies the dead body of Richard Warwick, and Warwick’s wife, Laura, holding a gun that supposedly killed him…………..Despite the murder being obvious, and overwhelming evidence pointing towards Laura having committed it, Starkwedder does not believe she killed him, and she soon tells the unexpected guest she’s innocent…….and the audience is captivated.
So starts the thrilling plot of Agatha Christie’s play in the equally delightful surrounding of Gawsworth Hall
I remember the first time I ever visited Gawsworth in the heart of Cheshire, walking down the lane past the water fronted medieval church, it seemed to me that nothing so captured the essence of an English country home quite like that beautiful black and white timbered building. In its picture perfect setting across from the lake, the vista of Gawsworth’s Tudor splendor absolutely represents all that is quintessentially English. But beyond a feast for the eyes, there is a feeling, an atmosphere to this ancient place that quite simply put is magical. It provides the perfect setting and ambiance for open air theatre.
As we step inside, the melodic bells of the hall clock chime 4.00 o’clock, echoing through the low half timbered manor house of this beautiful Tudor English home.
The aroma of summer sweet peas mixes with the very distinctive smell of polish and smokiness of wood that has burnt in the grates there for 100s of years. Their tiny chapel was granted its first licence in 1365. The drawing room with it’s Elizabethan windows shaped just like the bow of an old ship. Legend has it that Mary Fitton, wayward maid of Gawsworth, was the dark lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In it’s more recent history, Raymond Richards bought the hall in 1960. Born locally, he moved to Southport where he was a succesful Tea Merchant.
I continue to marvel at the ingenious ways of transporting tables and chairs, candelabra’s and marques for a Picnic Tea.
This is Britain after all with its marvellously unpredictable weather but luck is on our side, and we are rewarded with a warm, balmy evening, who could wish to be anywhere else in the world. There’s a tradition to the event, an etiquette. The ticket includes a visit to the house, but first things first, place your cushions to mark your seats in the auditorium. A picnic tea in the fresh air feels gentle, old fashioned but utterly charming. You are instantly transported back to another era, with Picnic basket filled to the brim with all good things.
Idea’s for a Gawsworth Hall Picnic Tea Menu
Smoked Trout Pate
Crisp salad home grown radish, carrot and cucumber batons
A choice of Carrot or Walnut Cake
A selection of cheeses with Scottish oat cakes
Strawberry’s with Fresh cream
Large leaf English Breakfast Tea – as we wanted something with character, full bodied and warming.
There is a very civilised break half way through the plot – Just time enough time for another cup of Tea
The sun is setting, the plot at its most enthralling. Now is the time you wish you remembered your picnic blanket! Candle light’s twinkle, too early to be competing with the stars, but happily illuminating the scene. The comfort of a warming brew is a welcome treat in the cooling air. Time has slowed, as I breath in the air. Tea With Mary Kate adores the traditional Tudor setting of open air theatre, surrounded by the palpable feeling of Gawsworth’s ancient past. It creates a magical ambiance that is memorable and rather special. These are the moments that you remember and cherish year’s later.