Murder on the Orient Express Synopsis

 

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express Synopsis & Content Advisory

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is a stage adaption of the classic murder mystery novel. Please be advised that this show contains the following:

  • Some moments of violence
  • Depictions of violence against a child
  • Theatrical gunfire

Keep reading for a detailed synopsis of the plot. Contact our Box Office with any specific questions about the content of this production/

PLEASE BE WARNED: This synopsis contains spoilers for plot twists in the story. 

Synopsis

Act I

The play opens on a domestic scene as we see little Daisy Armstrong getting ready for bed with her nanny. With Daisy in bed, the nanny leaves the room and the ominous shadow of a hulking man enters Daisy’s room. As Daisy screams, her scream turns into the sound of a train whistle and steam billows out onto the stage. From the mist, Detective Hercule Poirot welcomes the audience and introduces them to himself and the story of romance, tragedy, primal murder and the urge for revenge that they will be watching unfold.

We are in the Tokatlian Hotel in Istanbul in 1934. Colonel Arbuthnot hurries into the dining room to join Miss Mary Debenham who is waiting. As he goes to touch her cheek, she stops him quickly, saying that no one can see them like this, and that she thinks that a funny little man (Poirot) is watching them.

Other guests in the hotel dining room introduce themselves. Monsieur Bouc enters, delighted to see his fellow Belgian Poirot. Bouc runs Wagon-Lit, a great train company whose central office is there at the hotel. As Poirot tells him about the latest case he was working on, we see a flashback memory - a military officer that he found to be guilty enters the side stage, raises a pistol to his temple, fires and collapses.

Trying to get back to Scotland Yard, Poirot is told that first class tickets are sold out, but Bouc insists that they find space on the train for his detective friend, and that berth seven is always available. American businessman Samuel Ratchett appears, barking at his assistant MacQueen. Detective Poirot enters and everyone turns to look (as Poirot is a celebrity). Instantly Ratchett is ready to hire him. There is some issue, as compartment number seven is already taken, so Bouc gives Poirot his personal compartment in number one.

The beautiful young Countess Andrenyi enters, dressed to the nines in furs and diamonds. Poirot is introduced to her, speaks Hungarian to her, and starts to fall in love with her already.  Mrs. Hubbard is the last to arrive, and the train loudly whistles. Poirot senses tension - one of the passengers doesn’t fit - and off we go.

In the dining car, Ratchett tells Poirot that he has lots of enemies and has been receiving threatening letters. Despite offering five thousand dollars, and then ten thousand, Poirot declines taking on the case.

The train lurches forward, wheels clanging faster and faster, and the journey begins. In the sleeping compartments, American Mrs. Hubbard drinks and sings, annoying the other passengers. The Russian Princess Dragomiroff says that someone should shoot Hubbard and put her out of her misery. The snow begins to fall faster, and the train suddenly stops – it is stuck in a snowdrift.

Mrs. Hubbard is heard screaming, claiming there was a man in her bunk, but he is not found. Night turns to morning, and as everyone is waking up, MacQueen knocks on Ratchett’s door. When he doesn’t answer, they break the door down and find Ratchett with blood all over his pajamas- dead from eight stab wounds to the chest.

They question MacQueen, who thinks Ratchett was fleeing from America and hiding something. He tells them about the threatening letters, and Bouc begs Poirot to solve the case so that the news of the murder doesn’t hurt his company. Poirot says to give him the passports and tickets of everyone aboard. They ask the Countess, who used to be a doctor, to check out the body.

She says that the stab marks look like the killer was in a wild frenzy. Poirot questions why Ratchett didn’t fight back with the gun that was under his pillow. He begins collecting clues and observations. As he examines some burnt paper in the ashtray, you can see “Remember little Daisy Armstrong” written on the paper.

The Countess asks what that means, and they tell her about a case four years ago where a little girl was kidnapped from her home in Long Island, New York and later found murdered in the woods not far from her home. The murderer had ties to organized crime, and managed to disappear. Poirot makes a guess that Ratchett was this murderer.

Suddenly everyone hears a terrifying scream followed by a gunshot. As they search for her, they go into Ratchett’s room and there is Mary on the floor, laying in a pool of blood, with Ratchett’s gun nearby on the floor.

Act II

Everyone stands in Ratchett’s room, staring at Mary on the floor. The Countess rushes down to her and sees that Mary is still alive. She cuts the sleeve off of Mary’s dress, and everyone recoils at the sight of the bloody arm. When asked who shot her, Mary says that she only caught a glimpse of him, and that he was in a uniform.

Mary tells them that when she woke up that morning, she felt like she had been drugged and had a splitting headache. Disoriented, she stumbled into Mrs. Hubbard’s room, where she found a bloody knife in Hubbard’s purse. This frightened her so bad that she backed up into Ratchett’s room, saw the bloody body on the floor and screamed. Poirot goes into Hubbard’s room and pulls a bloody knife from her makeup bag.

The other passengers wait in the dining car, summoned by notes from Poirot. He has called them together to reveal who the murderer is. The audience hears loud BANGS as we cut to numerous flashbacks of apparent lies the other passengers have told. Several more bangs as we flashback to their reactions from finding out a man has died. Poirot continues revealing his thought process.

Poirot has put it all together, and tells them that the Yugoslavian police will be arriving soon. He asks Bouc what he thinks he should tell the police, and Bouc says there was a deadly intruder disguised as a conductor. Poirot agrees, and the train finally lurches forward and begins to move again.