Based on the novel of the same name by Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None is a reliable murder mystery of the first order. Presented by the veteran Agatha Christie Theatre Company, the show is a nostalgic romp around one of Christie’s most beloved mysteries.
The production values of the show are impeccable: a strong cast is complemented by excellent set design. It tells the story of eight of the nastiest guests in the world tempted to an isolated house, perched on an island a mile from the mainland. As they begin to drop one by one, poetic justice pervades the air, each cut down in judgement for the crimes they have committed.
Half of the fun of this production is the ‘whodunnit’ element, something which the cast manages well to keep in tension. Stellar performances from Paul Nicholas as Sir Lawrence Wargrave and Ben Nealon as Philip Lombard dominate the piece. Kezia Burrows as Vera Claythorne charmed the audience as much as the other characters. There were a few moments where melodrama took over, as when one of the final murders rather than eliciting a gasp, drew laughter. However all of this was played up to match the constraints of the theatre, and never detracted from the story.
The true spectacle of the show has to be attributed to the set. As the curtain goes up a towering entry hall comes in to view. A wood panelled modernist wonder home, modern for the 1930s of course. The main entrance is enclosed behind two gigantic semi-circular wooden doors that slide aside to reveal the sea and beyond. A liquor cabinet sits at one side and from the arrival of the first guests it is rarely out of use. From beginning to end the lighting is sublime, without the focus and detailed attention given the overall production would have lacked a polished finish.
Again and again the contrast of the new world and the old came up. Most of the characters fall in to one camp or the other, Nealon’s boastful new world Lombard is contrasted by Nicholas’s old world Wargave. Yet the punishing judgement of Christie which kills them in turn until there are None is clearly on the side of the Old Testament absolute law. It is strange to watch now, 50 years since the last capital punishment death in the UK. With the law having changed since then to have a far less black and white judiciary system, the dominant feel of the show is dated, but not despairingly so.
Though it probably takes a somewhat older perspective to fully enjoy the show, Christie’s appeal is universal. The plot and style may be rooted in a time long before ours, but the glitz and glamour lift the dragging of melodrama. It is altogether an enjoyable evening, but maybe avoid the liquor cabinet, you never know where the cyanide is hiding.
Reviewed on the 26/10/2015 by Ben Schofield
Edited by Tabitha James