Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Laurie Pollitt's Vera, Jessica Schneider's Emily and Tom Rees as the General with David Wakeman's judge in the background

And Then There Were None

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Agatha Christie’s celebrated murder mystery is showing its age these days, after all the old tale is 80 next year, so it only works if it is treated as a period piece, and The Nonentities managed that rather well.

The set was an effective rather plain affair, reminiscent of the late 1930s era, with a hint of art deco here and there, and the costumes had that 30s-40s look about them adorning characters who not only looked but sounded the part.

We are in an isolated house on Soldier Island off the coast of Devon and the scene is set when Fred (Nick Haynes) the boatman arrives to deliver a few provisions. It seems he turns up before 8am every morning, a plot marker if ever there was one, and that being established he vanishes back to the mainland never to be seen again.

The house is in the care of married domestics, the vague and rather bumbling Thomas Rogers played by Stuart Woodroffe, and his wife Ethel, a lovely performance from Joan Wakeman. They are waiting to welcome seven disparate guests and a new secretary to some sort of party organised by the owners, Mr and Mrs U N Owen, who it seems have been delayed so will join their guests the next day.

It transpires the Rogers have never met the owners and have only worked for them for a few days and we are to discover that in fact no one knows the owners, no one has met them, no one has any idea who they are. The guests have just turned up after somewhat dubious letters inviting them along. Times was more innocent it seems in 1943.

And what a mixed bunch of guests they are. There is Joe Harper’s nervous and twitchy Dr Armstrong, invited professionally, the boy racer, whizzo and all that Anthony Marston played by Chris Kay persuaded to join a mate at a party. Needless to say the mate is nowhere to be seen. Then there is Martin Salter as the South African millionaire with the cheapo underpants, who turns out to be dodgy private detective William Blore hired to protect valuables.

cast shot

Joe Harper as Dr Armstrong, Laurie Pollitt as Vera, Martin Salter as Blore and Matthew Morgan as Lombard

Tom Rees drifts from one world to the next as the retired General MacKenzie, there for a reunion and in madly in love with his late wife, madly being an understatement, all under the cloud of a guilty secret, not that Matthew Morgan’s playboy, womaniser Philip Lombard has any guilt for anything. He is, in that most 1930’s of terms, an adventurer, self-centred, hedonistic and invited to sort out any trouble.

There is no guilt either in Miss Emily Brent – easy to see why she is a miss by the way – played with a po-faced lack of charm or femininity by Jessica Schneider. She is a sort of Christian fundamentalist who sees the Bible more as an instruction manual. You suspect she sees sex as merely something in which to carry coal. She arrives after an invite from some woman she remembers meeting on a holiday a few years ago to sample the woman’s newly opened guest house.

Against that lot Miss Vera Claythorne seems boringly normal. Played by Laurie Pollitt, she is attractive and unlike the rest is not a guest but the Owen’s new secretary, although she has never met them.

Finally, we have the judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave, played with a reasoned if rather avuncular legal mind by David Wakeman. He tries to bring reason and logic to what becomes a nightmare situation, all belying his reputation as one of the leading hanging judges of his generation.

It all starts before dinner when, under Mr Owen’s instruction, Rogers puts on a record (ask your grandparents what that is). He thinks it is music, but it turns out to be a stern voice laying charges of murder at the feet of each of the seven guests and also accuses staff, Vera and Mr and Mrs Rogers, for good measure.

The scene is set, so let the murders commence, one by one. Escape seems the only option – except the boat - the one that comes before 8am every day remember - doesn’t turn up.


There is no phone, mobiles have yet to be invented and the body count can be followed by the little soldier statues on the fireplace. There were ten when we started, and their number is diminishing . . . all in line with the children’s rhyme, ten little soldier boys, framed above the mantle. The last line . . . and then there were none. It could be a somewhat empty curtain call.

As the cast gets smaller the tension grows bigger as the realisation grows that the killer must be one of the guests – but which one and why?

Why? Well, that’s why it is a mystery. Guessing among the audience at the interval and between scenes was interesting, if pretty much universally wrong, but that’s all part of the fun – there were even a few gasps when the inevitable twist was revealed.

Director Tori Wakeman kept everything on track to build the tension slowly, allowing the lighter moments to show and not letting the hysterical moments get out of hand and once the introductions had been made and the cull of characters got under way the diminishing band of survivors carried everything along beautifully.

We had Lombard’s black humour, the judge’s reasoned argument, Blore’s detective’s mind and clashes with Lombard amid his constant need for food and drink.

Roger’s carrying on as if nothing had happened, Emily quoting the Bible, the General waiting for his wife . . . all in all a bit of a madhouse.

Atmosphere aided by Joe Harper and David Wakeman's lighting design which gave us some  effective candlelit scenes.

Agatha Christie was the crime queen of her time and if you like a good country house mystery with a body count to rival Midsomer Murders, this could be right up your street, or at least on your island. To 21-05-22

Roger Clarke


The Nonentities

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