The Unexpected Guest (play)

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The Unexpected Guest
Written byAgatha Christie
Date premiered12 August 1958
Original languageEnglish

The Unexpected Guest is a 1958 play by crime writer Agatha Christie.

The play opened in the West End at the Duchess Theatre on 12 August 1958[1] after a previous try-out at the Bristol Hippodrome. It was directed by Hubert Gregg.

Plot summary[edit]

On a foggy night, Michael Starkwedder enters the home of the Warwicks through a window in the study. He finds the dead body of Richard Warwick, and finds Richard's wife, Laura, holding a gun that supposedly killed him. Michael does not believe she killed him, and she soon tells him she is innocent.

The two decide to place the blame on an enemy from the past, MacGregor, a man whose son was killed when he was run over by Richard's car while Richard was driving drunk. As the story progresses, it is revealed that Laura was having an affair due to Richard's cruel nature, and was vouching for the man she was cheating with when she claimed to have killed Richard.

Synopsis of scenes[edit]

The action of the play takes place in Richard Warwick's study in South Wales near the Bristol Channel.


  • Scene 1 – An evening in November. About 11:30 pm
  • Scene 2 – The following morning, About 11 am


  • Late afternoon the same day


Philip Hope-Wallace of The Guardian reviewed the opening night in the issue of 13 August 1958 when he said, "The Unexpected Guest is standard Agatha Christie. It has nothing as ingenious or exciting as the court scene and double twist of Witness for the Prosecution but it kept last night's audience at the Duchess Theatre in a state of stunned uncertainty; guessing wrongly to the last. There are one or two irritating factors: an outsize red herring in the shape of what, naturally, one may not disclose; also one of those corpse's mothers who say, in so many words, "Inspector, I have not many years to live…" and embark on enormities of tedious repetition."
Mr Hope-Wallace said that the corpse was, "impeccably played with, no doubt, full assistance of the Method, by Philip Newman" and concluded, "I have known more tension and greater surprise from other of Mrs. Christie's classics but this is quite a decent specimen of her craft."[2]

Laurence Kitchin of The Observer reviewed the play in the issue of 17 August 1958 when he said. "The corpse cools unregarded in a wheel-chair while the widow and an intruder embark on a complicated exposition. Provided you can accept such unreality and the abysmal humour, there is an ingenious display of suspects, as if lids were being taken off wells of depravity and hastily put back."[3]

The Guardian reported that The Queen attended a performance of the play on the evening of 16 February 1959 with Lord and Lady Mountbatten. The cast were unaware that she was in the audience. It was also the night that Christopher Sandford fell ill part way through the performance and had to be replaced by his understudy after the interval.[4]

Credits of London production[edit]

Director: Hubert Gregg



Front cover of 1958 Samuel French Ltd. Acting edition

The play was first published in 1958 by Samuel French Ltd. in a paperback edition priced at six shillings. Like Black Coffee (1998) and Spider's Web (2000), the script of the play was turned into a novel by Charles Osborne. It was published in the UK by HarperCollins in 1999.


It was adapted into an Italian television movie L'ospite inatteso (film 1980). Many languages of Indian films have adapted the same story and made several versions. Dhund produced and directed by B. R. Chopra in 1973 in Hindi language,Don Ghadicha Daav in Marathi, while the Kannada language version was made as Tarka, released in 1988. The Tamil language version was Puriyaadha Pudhir released in 1990, but the Malayalam version Chodhyam made in 1990 never had a theatrical release. A radio dramatisation adapted and directed by Gordon House was broadcast by the BBC on 30 May 1981.


  1. ^ "Plays: By Decade". the official Agatha Christie website. Archived from the original on 20 November 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  2. ^ The Guardian. 13 August 1958 (Page 3)
  3. ^ The Observer 17 August 1958 (Page 11)
  4. ^ The Guardian 17 February 1959 (Page 3)

External links[edit]

Media related to The Unexpected Guest (play) at Wikimedia Commons