IT’S the early 1960s and two national treasures come together to create one of the most successful franchises in the history of British cinema.

Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth Miss Marple is about to be launched in a series of films. The only problem is that the Queen of Crime does not want the studio’s choice of Margaret Rutherford, famous comic actress, to play her favourite character and Margaret Rutherford, initially, has no intention of playing Marple and sullying her reputation by association with sordid tales of murder.

In Tweed Theatre’s production the play explains the complex background to the early cool relationship between the two women and exactly why Rutherford did not want the role that made her famous across the world and brought offers from Hollywood, culminating in an Oscar-winning cameo in blockbuster film The VIPs.

Agatha and Margaret become unlikely friends over gossipy afternoon teas full of acerbic comments and witty digressions.

During the developing friendship Christie turns detective herself to discover the tragic and shocking secret that lay behind Rutherford’s reluctance.

The third, slightly mysterious character of The Muse acts partly as a Greek chorus, commenting on the developments, partly as a grey eminence, driving the action forward and also playing various roles,notably one of Christie’s most famous creations (no prizes for guessing whom).

Underneath an often very funny series of exchanges between these two towering figures of their time in British popular culture, overshadowed by the manipulative Muse, runs a roiling torrent of loss, pain, secrets and lies.

Paula Blackhall as The Muse, Karen Hamilton as Agatha and Ros Taylor as Margaret are on stage throughout the play, creating scintillating moods and scenes from witty exchanges in Claridge's and mayhem in film studios to Rutherford’s over stuffed, claustrophobic living room which she shares with her family.

The clever direction of Elizabeth O’Raw brings out the split between public persona and private reality and the endless ripple effects of buried secrets for both main protagonists.

Tweed Theatre has been encouraged by a message of support via Facebook from the play’s author Philip Meeks and intend to do him proud with this unusual story of the complex truth behind the public personas of celebrities.

Murder, Margaret and Me is Tweed Theatre’s production at the Eastgate Theatre, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 12, 13 and 14, at 7.30 pm. Tickets £10 and £8 concession.