The Wasp's Nest (lost early BBC television adaptation of Agatha Christie short story; 1937)

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Thewaspsnest2.jpg

Agatha Christie and Francis L. Sullivan as Hercule Poirot

Status: Lost

The Wasp's Nest is an early BBC television adaptation of the Agatha Christie short story of the same name. Broadcast twice on 18th June 1937,[1] the adaptation was notable not only for being the first time an Agatha Christie story converted into a television play, but also for being the only time where Christie herself was responsible for adapting her works for television.

Background

The Wasp's Nest was conducted and broadcast live at the Alexandra Palace, as part of BBC's Theatre Parade. This was unusual, because previously Theatre Parade had only showcased already successful plays. However, as issue 715 of Radio Times notes, this play was an original adaptation, with television viewers receiving the opportunity to see it be conducted for the first time. Starring Francis L. Sullivan as detective Hercule Poirot, the play was first shown at 3.35 pm and lasted for 25 minutes. A repeat that same evening at 9.40 pm lasted 20 minutes.[2]

Aside from being the first play adaptation of The Wasp's Nest, it was also the only instance where writer Agatha Christie adapted her works for a television setting by producing the screenplay. Sources conflict with the reasoning behind why she never wrote another script. The common narrative is that Christie came to dislike television,[3] being particularly critical of later television adaptations of her books,[4] and because of this was against producing further works for television. Another theory is that Christie was not necessarily against television, but strictly regulated how her works were adapted for other platforms. Most notably, she terminated her MGM film contract following the film company making too many adjustments to her works for film adaptation. Christie also wrote other television screenplays, including for the musical Triangle at Rhodes, but did not send them to producers.[5]

Irrespective of the explanation, Christie would not write another TV screenplay that would go on to be utilized, although the BBC would eventually be responsible for the first TV adaptation of one of her novels, And Then There Were None, in 1949.[6]

Availability

Like other early BBC television broadcasts, The Wasp's Nest was broadcast live and was not recorded. Therefore, both versions of the play are now permanently missing. A Radio Times mention of the play, as well as a behind-the-scenes photo of Christie with Sullivan as Poirot, are all that remains of the play.

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