Ten little suspects all in a row

And Then There Were None

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

AGATHA Christie's 1939 novel about a group of people summoned to an island hotel makes for one of her best and intriguing stage adaptations.

The play has had a couple of titles. Before settling on the current title it started life as Ten Little Niggers. For obvious reasons, that was changed. After a few years as Ten Little Indians it finally became the somewhat safer And Then There Were None.

We know exactly what we get with Agatha Christie. It is hardly a spoiler alert to say that at some point, someone gets murdered. The beauty, as always, lies in working out who did it. A formulaic structure maybe, but one that consistently appeals to a British Paul Nicholasaudience. Everyone loves a good murder mystery and no one does it better than Miss Christie.

In this case, the setting is a remote island hotel off the coast of Devon. There is no telephone, no communication with the mainland - just a chap in a boat who deliveries essentials each morning. A perfect scenario, then, for some ghastly goings on. Add to the mix a group of people all with something of a shady secret, and the stage is set for some very dark deeds.

At the time, lines such as ' My God, he’s dead! Chopped in two with an axe!' would have been met with gasps of horror by an audience. These days, it's met more with amusement than fear. That said, the actors still need to play the scenes with natural truth otherwise it runs the risk of becoming a parody. Director, Joe Harmston is acutely aware of this and does a fine job with a strong and well-cast company.

Paul Nicholas as the retired judge

Christie, as we know, likes her characters to be broadly drawn. From scene one we know exactly who people are. The Butler, the Doctor, the Army General, The Hoorah Henry, The Society Hostess - it could almost be a game of Cluedo. And that, of course, is why we love it. It’s a game being unraveled onstage and the audience are very much playing along, trying to guess who the murderer is.

A strong ensemble cast zip the pace along with just the right balance of tension and sincerity. Paul Nicholas is suitably commanding as retired judge, Lawrence Wargrave.

Colin Buchanan convinces as boorish ex - inspector William Bloor and Eric Carte delivers pomposity perfectly as General Mackensie.

Simon Scullions Deco design provides just the right atmosphere and credit too to Douglas Kuhrt’s atmospheric lighting .

A perfect way to spend a cold winter evening. To 07-02-15

Tom Roberts

02-02-15 

 

And then there were none . . .

****

IT would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate play for The Agatha Christie Theatre Company to choose for a national tour marking their 10th anniversary.

Widely considered as the Queen of Crime’s masterpiece and described by her as the most difficult of her books to write, it involves ten strangers invited to the home of an eccentric millionaire on a remote island off the coast of Devon.

All ten have a guilty secret which puts their lives in danger, and a framed nursery rhyme above the mantelpiece – The Ten Little Soldier Boys – with ten small statues below, is an obvious warning of death on the agenda.

With so many murders in the plot, Christie included various amusing incidents to lighten the gloom as one after another the guests are despatched . . . but by whom?

Strangely the potential victims – trapped on the island by a violent storm - appear to show little apprehension as the mystery killer begins the count down, but the story is so well developed that the audience struggle to identify who is committing the crimes, or even if it is one of the guests.

An excellent cast is headed by veteran actor Paul Nicholas, convincing as retired judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave who seems just the man to solve the mystery, and there are fine performances from Ben Nealon (Captain Philip Lombard), and Verity Rushworth (Vera Claythorne) whose eye-popping backless frock causes a buzz of excitement during one scene.

Directed by Joe Harmston, this multi-murder mystery runs to Saturday night (Feb 7) and will be at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre from February 16-21)

Paul Marston

04-02-15 

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