The BBC says it is now the home of Agatha Christie adaptations after striking a deal with the writer’s estate that will see David Walliams play the Queen of Crime’s lesser known sleuth, Tommy Beresford. The part of Tommy's wife and fellow detective Tuppence is yet to be cast.
Walliams is understood to have been a driving force behind the project which will form a six-part adaptation of two tales, the first of which comes from Christie’s 1929 collection of short stories Partners in Crime.
The BBC’s version will be set in the 1950’s and the first three episodes will be an adaptation of The Secret Adversary written by playwright and director Zinnie Harris, with writer Claire Wilson adapting the novel N or M which will form the rest of the series.
According to Ben Stephenson, the BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, the adaptations will feel different to Marple and Poirot shows and will be more “espionagey”.
The commission comes after the BBC commissioned Acorn Productions Ltd which manages the Christie rights to produce the two dramas. Acorn will be co-producing with Mammoth Screen and Endor Productions respectively.
Stephenson said at a dinner on Wednesday night that the books would be treated like any classic would for a TV adaptation.
“”We want to show her as one of the great British writers,” he said. “We will treat And Then There Were None as a classic of British literature like any other.”
All the news dramas are expected to air next year, the 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth.
The BBC’s deal temporarily brings the curtain down on the Christie chapter at ITV, with the last ever David Suchet Poirot adaptation airing last year.
At Christmas ITV aired Endless Night, starring Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple. The broadcaster told RadioTimes.com that it has no plans to make any more but insists that Marple and Poirot repeats remain a vital part of their schedule.
A statement said: "Agatha Christie's Poirot and Agatha Christie's Marple remain a strong and much loved continuing presence in ITV family schedules, and both programmes will go on being successful for ITV both in the UK and as we continue to sell them internationally."
Walliams said of the BBC commission: “In bringing these thrilling stories to the screen, it is our ambition for Tommy and Tuppence to finally take their rightful place alongside Poirot and Marple as iconic Agatha Christie characters. I was first drawn to the delicious notion of a married couple solving crimes together, and the more I read of the Tommy and Tuppence novels and short stories I realised they are among Christie’s very best work.”
Sarah Phelps, who has written the adaptation of And Then There Were None added: “And Then There Were None is Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, a brilliant, unsettling, forensically precise psychological thriller about guilt and paranoia, crime and punishment. It is as sharp as a scalpel, as gripping as a steadily tightening noose, its darkness interspersed with the blackest of black wit.
Christie’s grandson Mathew Pritchard, who is also Chairman of Agatha Christie Limited said: “It is fantastic that, in her all-important 125th anniversary year, my grandmother is to be welcomed with such enthusiasm to the BBC: a wonderful new home for her much-loved characters and their stories, and one which she would be delighted with. The commitment to these productions from all those involved is great to see, and I’ve no doubt will result in compelling new adaptations, to be enjoyed by fans old and new.”