And Then There Were None

‘And Then There Were None’ is a gripping mystery play from the world’s best-selling author, Agatha Christie, being published in November 1939 when Agatha was 49 yrs.  It is considered her magnum opus, and according to the lady herself, was her most difficult book to write. The first version had twelve characters, two more than the present version, the book made Agatha Christie the best-selling novelist of all time and is read in more than 50 languages.

The stage play was performed in 1943 under the book’s original UK title ‘Ten Little N****r Boys’. Amazingly, this title was used for the books, a cinema film, and two UK TV presentations of the play up to 1969! It was also the first of Christie’s novels to appear on TV.

Amazingly, in 1965 added Bollywood touches, including music and comedy, to the plot but was an unlicensed production which Christie had not approved so now her plays are licensed by Agatha Christie Productions. 1989 saw US film, ‘Ten Little Indians’ another title that caused concern with the Canadians.

In 2015, this world’s seventh best-selling book ‘And Then There Were None’ was voted the World’s Favourite Christie in a global vote to mark Agatha Christie’s 125th anniversary.

This gripping two-and-a-half-hour drama from the Rockingham Theatre Company, at their Castle Theatre, 8 Atwood Way, Rockingham. The two-week season has curtain up at 8.00 pm each night until Sunday 15th May.

The Scene:           August 1930. The smart sitting room in a large mansion on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon.

The Set: Designer was Rob Walker. The scene is a huge and lavish sitting room, with quality furniture including winged burgundy leather armchairs, a studded sofa, quality wooden bookcases and tables.

The décor is peppermint green walls with white woodwork. The side wall has a white marble antique fireplace on the mantlepiece with the with ten little soldiers dressed in regimental scarlet jackets and busbies; at the rear of the stage, was a set of patio doors with surrounding windows overlooking the Bristol Channel. Also at the back was a staircase leading upstairs to the bedrooms.

The artwork depicting the balcony and sea scene would have benefited greatly with a strip of LEDs to give the change between day and night or lightning flashes.

Set builder:         Rob Walker, Kim Smith, Julia Della Franca, and volunteers have produced a smart, functional and very realistic mansion.

Props:   Miranda Santalucia filled the room with genuine antiques and finery.

Lighting Design and operator:     Very good work from Michelle Smith who produced a cosy evening scene and a creepy candlelit room.                 

Sound design and operator:         Mitchell Drain and Peter Shaw had just the right volume for the realistic sound effects.               

Stage manager: Kirsty Rosenberg did a fine job.

        The play opens as the butler, Rodgers (Shaun Griffin), and his henpecking wife, Mrs Rodgers (Emma Del Pino) are checking the food supplies for a private gathering. The couple were hired by Mr and Mrs Owen, a couple of weeks earlier, to clean and prepare the newly purchased, remote island house and to look after their guests.

       As there is no ferry to the island, a local fisherman Fred Narracott (Aaron Faure) transports any guests and domestic requirements to the house. Today, on his first voyage, he has brought a young schoolmistress, Vera Claythorne (Carmen Dohle) and a couple of men. The first is flirtatious Philip Lombard (Callon Leam) a mercenary, military officer who has just returned from Africa; he is accompanied by a reckless, self-centred young student, Anthony Marston (Chris Spencer).

       On his second crossing, Fred ferries the mysterious South African, William Blore (Aiden Rosenburg), and the semi-senile war hero, General MacKenzie (Don Callison) and the prudish religious zealot, the elderly prim Emily Brent (Miranda Santalucia). The last two guests to arrive are a pedantic retired judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave (David McGarr) and an alcoholic Harley Street medic, Dr Armstrong (Gordon Park).

      Rogers announces that their hosts have been delayed and won’t be arriving until the following day, but that the guests should all make themselves at home in the meanwhile. However, when a cryptic recording by Mr Owen is played to the gathering, it seems that they all have sordid pasts and because of that, each one may well die over the next 24 hours.

Christie has precisely created and written very different characters. Each personality is specifically designed to create red herrings and throw the audience off the scent. Role play with superb but subtle interaction is essential in this genre of theatre. Often the cast take some time to achieve a chemistry, but under the guidance of Peter Shaw – being given his first chance as Director – the cast were superb from the very beginning. Like his assistant director Shaun Griffin, Peter has a huge acting résume proving his stage capabilities.

The audience, who may never have seen a whodunit, or this style of suspense play before, really loved it. It is even suitable for ‘thinking’ 10- or 12-years old.

This production worked beautifully. Your dedication will have been much appreciated and admired.