Streaming service or movie theater? This weekend I got lazy and tried a test run of Britbox, a natural for any public broadcast fan since it features programs from the other side of the pond. Like any aspiring service with high ambitions, Britbox began producing its own label, this year offering—appropriately enough—another take on Agatha Christie.
Unlike Kenneth Branagh who remade two of Christie’s most famous and classic works, writer-director-actor Hugh Laurie from House plays with the lesser known Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Lesser—not un—known. You can find other screen versions including one that adds author Christie’s famous Miss Marple to the mix. Laurie goes back to the book’s original concept, bringing together friends from two different social circles who join forces to figure out what those words of the title mean—Why didn’t they ask Evans? They come
as the last utterance of a man who fell—or got pushed—from a picturesque cliff in Wales.
Christie—who specialized in locked-room, whocould’vedunnit scenarios, broadened her scope by moving to various locations and hooking followers with enticing questions, like “Who is Evans?” Using total understanding of his source material, Laurie transfers the work into a three-part series featuring witty dialogue and engaging performers. Will Poulter and Lucy Boynton look well suited to their 1930s period setting. Laurie puts in a guest appearance, and his credibility lures other familiar faces like Jim Broadbent and Emma Thompson.
But while Laurie clearly understands what he wants and all that goes on with the caper, viewers need to pay closer than usual attention since the story includes names that change and a multi-layered level of underhanded shenanigans. “Huh?” proves a reasonable reaction in a couple of instances, if for some reason a chocolate bar in the kitchen calls. But then, the benefit of a streaming service like Britbox includes the option to press the rewind icon for a clarifying moment.