ENGLISH playwright Agatha Christie is renowned for her darkly comic works, that have people who initially seem to be well behaved, deliberately or accidentally killing someone who offends them at functions such as family get-togethers and birthday parties.
One of her murder mysteries, The Mousetrap, has become the world's longest-running stage production.
It opened in a London West End theatre on November 25, 1952, and continued its London staging until March 16 this year, when the city's theatres closed because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Remarkably the show had 28,000 performances before the closure.
The theatre that houses The Mousetrap is set to reopen on October 23, with socially-distanced performances due to coronavirus transmissions rates decreasing in England.
The Mousetrap was one of two Hunter productions of Agatha Christie's plays that had to be cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Maitland Repertory Theatre had scheduled a season of the play from April 29 to May 17, with most of the seats sold before its theatre had to be closed in line with the social distancing restrictions.
The other play was Murder on the Nile, that Newcastle Theatre Company had set for a season from June 12 to 27.
Another production that didn't go ahead because of the virus, Newcastle Dinner Theatre's Bloody Murder, which was set to run from March 20 to April 4, is an amusing send-up by playwright Ed Sala of Agatha Christie's murder mysteries.
It shows a diverse group of British people having a weekend retreat at a titled woman's sumptuous country estate, with her ladyship refusing to summon the police when one guest is poisoned and dies.
That sort of behaviour in Christie's plays has watchers laughing and smiling.
Many of the incidents in the plays grew out of things that had happened to her and people she was related to or friends.
She was born into a wealthy upper-middle-class family in Devon in 1890 and was married twice, with the first marriage to businessman and military officer, Archie Christie, ending in a divorce in 1928 after he told her he was having an affair with another woman and wanted to marry her.
Her second marriage, to archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan in 1930, led to her accompanying him to work in the Middle East for several months each year.
The Middle East journeys led to her writing the novel Death on the Nile in 1937, then adapting it into the play Murder on the Nile in 1944, with the novel based on a play called Moon on the Nile that she had written, but thought wouldn't work on a stage.
Murder on the Nile, has a jilted woman following the man she loves and his bride as they cruise down the Nile River, with a gunshot adding to the newlyweds' problems.
One of her most popular novels, Murder on the Orient Express, that was published in 1934, also grew out of incidents and discussions in the Middle East.
Christie actually met her second husband while travelling on the Orient Express.
The novel, that featured the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, has the title elegant train of the 1930s stopped by a heavy snowfall.
A murder is discovered, and Poirot's trip home to London from the Middle East is interrupted to solve the murder.
Ironically, while Poirot was a main character in her first published book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, that was released in 1920, and also featured in 33 of her novels and more than 50 short stories, she increasingly grew tired of him.
She wrote in her diary at the end of the 1930s that she was finding Poirot "insufferable", and by the end of the 1960s she felt he was "an egocentric creep".
This explains why she replaced him with another character in the stage version of Death on the Nile.
Agatha Christie's first play written for the stage was Black Coffee, which was set in a library in the house of a knighted Englishman, about 25 miles from London.
The play, which premiered in London in 1930 and was a box-office hit, has Hercule Poirot and a friend summoned to visit a knighted physicist and finding when they arrive that he has been murdered.
A formula he developed has been stolen and Poirot tries to deduce which of the family members or house guests is the killer.
Christie began writing the play in 1929, as she was disappointed with the portrayal of Poirot in the stage version of the play Alibi, which had been adapted by Michael Morton the previous year from her 1926 novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
The play, which starred Charles Laughton as Hercule Poirot, had premiered at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London's West End on 15 May, 1928.
Agatha Christie died peacefully on January 12, 1976 at age 85 from natural causes.
When her death was announced, two West End theatres - the St. Martin's, where The Mousetrap was playing, and the Savoy, which was home to a revival of The Murder at the Vicarage - dimmed their outside lights in her honour.
The 1949 play, The Murder at the Vicarage, had been adapted from one of her stories by another writer.
The novel and play's characters included Miss Marple, a spinster who appears in many of Christie's stories and plays.
She is observant and knows human behaviour, and is recognised in her village as an astute and generally correct woman.