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Prudence Wright Holmes: Agatha Is Missing

By | Published on Friday 28 June 2019

If you were at the Fringe last year then it’s entirely possible that you heard about a show called ‘Agatha Is Missing’, an interactive and funny murder mystery with a familiar character in the starring role.

If you didn’t manage to get around to seeing it, then I am pleased to inform you that the show is back this year to delight more edfringe audiences.

The show was written, and is performed, by Prudence Wright Holmes, a US-based performer and playwright with an impressive history of work both live and on screen. I arranged a quick chat to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling us what to expect from the show – what is it all about?
PWH: It’s an interactive murder mystery comedy where ‘Miss Marbles’ interrogates the audience members about the events leading up to Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance.

CM: Can you expand on the interactive element a bit – what level of involvement can audiences expect?
PWH: They are all suspects in Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance as they are all her friends and neighbours. At any moment, Detective Miss Clarissa Marbles may uncover secrets in their criminal pasts and call audience members up to defend their dastardly deeds. They should be prepared to answer for their crimes. Be afraid! Be very afraid!!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the character you play?
PWH: Detective Miss Clarissa Marbles is similar to Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. Miss Marbles is strict, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She is a tough interrogator. She drinks.

CM: What inspired the show? Are you a fan of the mystery genre?
PWH: I have been in a murder mystery company for eighteen years so I am very familiar with the genre. I have enjoyed doing interactive shows and improvising with audience members. When I heard about Agatha Christie’s real-life disappearance, I was inspired to do an interactive show about it.

CM: How did you put the show together? Did you sit down and write a script or was there a more devised/improvised element to it?
PWH: I did sit down and write it and googled lots of websites on British humour and Agatha Christie. I read books about her. I also worked on it in playwriting class. I didn’t have a director because there’s an improvisational element here depending on what my suspects say. I have to think on my feet.

CM: I think this is maybe your second year of performing the show in Edinburgh, so presumably you must have had a good year last year…? What made you decide to come to the Fringe with it in the first place, and why did you decide to return?
PWH: Last year was great and I did well. I loved being around so many creative people. Edinburgh fringe is like a Mecca for them. And me.

CM: What do you like about Edinburgh? What are you looking forward to about being back there?
PWH: I like all the history there. It’s so ancient. And my ancestors are from Luss: I visited last year and found their graves.

CM: Let’s talk a bit about you now: how did your performance career begin, and was it what you always wanted to do?
PWH: I began by doing plays in church. I loved being different people. Then I went to Carnegie Mellon Drama school. After I graduated I didn’t have any other skills . I don’t know how to type. I had to be an actor.

CM: You’ve done lots of screen work as well as theatrical appearances of different kinds, as well as being a playwright – how do all these elements compare? Do you have a favourite?
PWH: Acting is my favourite. I prefer theatre to film because it’s more the actors’ medium. Film is more technical but I love those residuals. The gift that keeps on giving. Playwriting is good because you don’t have to be up there sticking your neck out. My mission is to write and perform shows about women I admire.

CM: Is there anything you could pick out as a highlight of your career thus far?
PWH: Working with the Coen brothers was a life long dream come true.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
PWH: I would love to find a producer for ‘Agatha Is Missing’ and do it in New York City off Broadway. I think it would be a huge crowd pleaser and run for a long time like ‘Late Night Catechism’ or ‘Tony and Tina’s wedding’.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
PWH: I’m working on a solo show about Virginia Woolf. I was very excited when I found a speech she gave in 1939 in which she outed her two half brothers for sexually molesting her. It was such an incredible #MeTo moment. At a time and place where that kind of thing just wasn’t talked about. Thrilling!

Prudence Wright Holmes performed ‘Agatha Is Missing’ at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Edinburgh Festival 2019.