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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

And Then There Were None - UK Tour Review - Theatre Royal Plymouth

Agatha Christie. A mere mention of the name is enough to draw images of mystery, deception, distrust, and puzzles. To be able to construct a mystery in such a way as Christie is perhaps the dream of many a writer now, for not many could piece together a puzzle so intricate and clever that it keeps you guessing until the dying moments of the story itself. Her classic tale ‘The Mousetrap’ is the longest running play in West End history, but that, of course, isn’t her only hit.

 

Ten little soldier boys went out to dine.

 

‘And Then There Were None’ is a classic in itself, utilising many of the building blocks of mystery stories that continue to be used today. Strangers, secrets, isolation, desperation and the all too elusive ‘who’, interwoven with the well-known idea of being trapped in one place, in one group of people, so someone there must have done it.



 A group of strangers are invited to the isolated Soldier Island, all convinced that an old friend wrote the invite, all convinced that they are there for different reasons. Anthony Marston (Oliver Clayton) thinks an old school chum invited him for a wild party, Doctor Armstrong (Bob Barrett) thinks he is there to provide a private medical assessment, Vera Claythorne thinks she is there for a summer job as a secretary, but what is really happening, and where is Mr Owen, the owner of the island’s only residence?

 

A mysterious voice plays over the gramophone, accusing each guest of a crime that have gotten away with, up to this point that this.

 

Ten glass soldiers stand on the table, illustrating the children’s nursery rhyme that hangs in each of the guest’s bedroom. The rhyme describes the gruesome death of the soldiers one by one, and as each glass soldier mysteriously disappears, the guests meet their own gruesome ends. But who did it? With no sign of Mr Owen, and each guest’s secrets spilling out, one of them is the guilty one, but can you work out who?

 

The 11 strong cast are tight knit and well-polished, with each character being as individual and cleverly crafted as the last. At first, it would be easy to pick them apart as stereotypes; Marston, the party child, all fast cars and drink in hand, General Mackenzie (Jeffery Kissoon), the stuffy older gentleman who can’t leave the army behind, Claythorne (Sophie Walter), the little miss perfect can do no wrong, and Blore (Andrew Lancell), the fool who thinks himself cleverer than he is, to name but a few. But, give it some time, and the characters deepen. We learn their secrets, and the characters become much more layered and developed, and you find yourself drawn into them.



 Lancel’s Blore, alongside Katy Stephens’ Emily Brent and Clayton’s Anthony Marston provide some laughter to the otherwise dark tale, with witty one liners expertly delivered. These snippets of comedy are clever woven into the story, providing further depth to the characters and little tastes of their lives away from the ill-fated Soldier Island. Joseph Beattie’s Phillip Lombard and Sophie Walter’s Vera Claythorne are perhaps the true driving force of the story. Claythorne feels, at times, the brains of the operation, picking up on the comparison between the nursery rhymes and the depths and ultimately carrying an ongoing distrust of everyone around her. Lombard has that seemingly never-ending energy, which only becomes more erratic and on edge as the story continues and the body count rises, giving the action a real punch.

 

Whilst many of the deaths do happen off of the stage, with music used to build the atmosphere to the final moments of the characters, some moments on stage are pushed to rather dark extremes. And I will admit to having a look away at one point, but that’s just me and something that I find personally find very uncomfortable and I will praise the tour organisers for making warnings about such moments straightforward to find on the website should you wish too.



 Whilst the story itself may be over 90 years old, this production directed by Lucy Bailey, manages to stay true to the roots whilst injecting some more modern styles of storytelling. Flashbacks and slow-motion sequences give the audience a glimpse into the secret pasts of the characters, and voiceovers create a number of dream like moments throughout. That being said, I can’t say that all of these more modern moments fit perfectly in my opinion. A slow-motion dance like sequence with a jazzy soundtrack bathed in red light seemed out of place, and its only thinking about it the following day that I realise what I think it was trying to portray, the madness sinking in, the realisation that they may not make it off the island alive. An interesting choice, and one that may just miss the mark for me.

 

The set, designed by Mike Britton is simplistic, highlighting the modernist style of the in between war era of vast spaces and limited furniture, statement pieces and soft fabrics. A bearskin rug is the largest feature of the living room, with a dining table and the soldier’s highlighted at all times. A see-through curtain splits the stage in two length ways, creating depth and a feeling of more space. The curtain itself, pretty and effective in sight but perhaps a little messy in use at times, with cast members seemingly struggling slightly to find the opening to move from one side of the stage to the other.



 Christie herself did not feel that ‘And Then There Were None’ was her best play, but she did declare that it was her best piece of ‘craftsmanship’, and I have to agree. The story is wickedly clever, full of twists and turns and secrets that appear from nowhere even when you think that you know everything. It is masterfully crafted.

 

In conclusion, ‘And Then There Was None’ is everything that you could want in a classic ‘whodunnit’, continuing to prove that the genre will never fade in popularity and that Christie’s still in twisting a tale cannot be rivalled.

 

 

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