Agatha Christie Birthday Weekend: Hololens, Japanese Dance & Much More!
World-famous crime writer Agatha Christie loved Torquay, so it’s only right that her hometown celebrates her birthday in style. Here we chat to the people behind a very special weekend of music, art, dance and theatre.
Sioned Huw is a choreographer who has studied the Deer Dance of Iwate, Japan. Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. For one weekend only (14-16 September) these two worlds will collide in a colourful, lively celebration of creativity. The Japanese inspired outdoor dance will form part of a packed programme of events, designed to honour Agatha Christie through her love of all things cultural. Organisers hope this special Birthday Weekend, which brings together artists from all over the UK and beyond to Agatha Christie’s beloved Torbay, would have been the kind of party she would have really enjoyed.
“I like to think that we are bringing a little gem from Northern Japan to her,” says Sioned Huw, who has spent years studying the Deer Dance of Iwate, Japan, with dancers of Kakinaizawa Shishi-odori Gyouzan-ryu.
She says the captivating Niwa-Gardd-Garden dance – due to be performed at Babbacombe Downs, Paignton seafront and Torre Abbey - would have appealed to Agatha Christie’s appreciation of world culture.
“I’m interested in places and people and all those small pieces of culture that are getting lost these days,” says Welsh-born Sioned, adding that a visit to the crime writer’s holiday home, Greenway, inspired her to take part in the birthday celebrations.
“I went there last year and saw all these archaeological artefacts that she had collected,” she says.
“It made me think of all the little ways that our culture connects up.”
Sioned admits she’s not much of a murder mystery fan, but she recently read and enjoyed Agatha Christie’s autobiographical Come Tell me How You Live.
“We are coming to tell you how we live,” says Sioned, explaining that the symbolic Japanese dance is based on the movement of a deer and is made up of 33 parts. Sioned will be joined by members of Dance in Devon, as well as Tokyo-based dancer Honami Shimizu.
“Honami will be blown away when she comes to Torquay,” says Sioned, who lives between Wales, London and Japan. “I first visited Torbay last year and my goodness, what a beautiful place it is."
“The landscape is so special and the way the houses are dotted around the cliffs - I was really fascinated by the beauty of the place.”
The Niwa-Gardd-Garden dance takes place at Babbacombe Cliff Downs on 14 September, then Princess Pier Torquay & Paignton Green/Esplanade on 15 September and at Torre Abbey Garden Party on 16 September.
Agatha Christie and the very latest digital technology come together in a magical work of art by Scott Fletcher.
The piece uses the voice of Agatha Christie, taken from a recently discovered archive recording of the late author reading the first scene of her Poirot mystery, Elephants Can Remember in 1972. Her cut-glass, distinctive voice is then brought to life through a clever use of holograms and images in a carefully styled bedroom scene.
Visitors to the room at Torre Abbey can put on Microsoft’s HoloLens Mixed Reality headset and be transported to another world.
“I particularly enjoy that combination of digital and traditional art forms,” says Scott Fletcher, a Bristol-based interdisciplinary artist. He says it was a real privilege to work with such a rare recording during this unique project.
“It was fantastic,” he says. “It had been lost for all these years. Just hearing her voice is incredible.”
Scott says hopes his work will have a broad appeal and help to celebrate the life and times of a very influential writer.
“I have fond memories of sitting down to cheese and biscuits on a Sunday with my family and watching Poirot,” says Scott. “I love making digital art and it’s always important to make it relevant to the local community.”
James Tyson, director of the International Agatha Christie Festival (IACF), says he hopes the Birthday Celebration weekend will show the author in a slightly different light.
“We are presenting her as someone who lived a life,” he says. “What set her on her writing life was curiosity and enjoyment of the arts."
“It’s about bringing it back to the things she was passionate about, the things she would have been quite happy to come and enjoy, rather than putting her at the centre of it all.”
Don’t miss the other events taking place over the course of this very special weekend. Heading the bill is the world-premiere at the Palace Theatre of Agatha Christie’s forgotten play, The Lie.
West End producer Julius Green will be directing a staged reading of the play on Saturday, 15 September.
Young people from Doorstep Arts in Torbay and Beyond Face in Plymouth, will be writing and devising new original work, inspired by crime writer Hawa Jande Golokai’s Zombieland. The event takes place on 15 September at Paignton Palace Theatre.
A charming garden party takes place in the stunning grounds of Torre Abbey Museum on 16 September. Period costume most welcome. Expect jazz music, decadent drinks, tasty treats, a murder treasure hunt and garden games. Before that, they're hosting a Christie Mystery day on 15 September, launched by Mathew Prichard, the author’s grandson.
The next five-day International Agatha Christie Festival returns next year on 11 September. Find out more information on their website.