‘And Then There Were None’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 8, 2016

‘And Then There Were None’ is a gripping mystery play from the world famous playwright, Agatha Christie. It is considered her masterpiece, and was her most difficult book to write. Originally published in November 1939 (when Agatha was 49 yrs.) it was titled ‘Ten Little Niggers’, a name unsuitable for the American market, so it was adapted and reprinted as ‘Ten Little Indians’ – not surprisingly, this wasn’t too good in Canada. It is the world’s seventh, best-selling book.

This very well produced, fast moving, two and a half hour drama from the Garrick Theatre Company, can be seen at the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford at 8.00 pm nightly until 23rd April. Sunday matinee is at 2.00 pm.

The season is almost sold out, booking essential.

 

The setting is August 1930 on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon. The scene is a luxurious, massive sitting room (I did not know that the Garrick stage went back that far), with sliding doors leading to a rear patio overlooking the Bristol Channel – which actually rippled (clever art effect by Carol Keppler). This superb set was built by Robert Vincent, Clayton Reichert and the tasteful décor added with the skilful aid of Susan Vincent and Carol Keppler.

On the mantelpiece of the log fire are ten wooden toy soldiers, dressed in regimental scarlet jackets and busbies (made by Narelle Borbely). The sumptuous room décor carries through the soldiers’ theme of black, scarlet and white.

Smooth stage management from Colleen Bradford and Jenna McGoughan-Shaw.

 

        The play opens as the overbearing butler, Rogers (Graham Miles), and his pale, nervous wife, Ethel the cook (Colleen Bradford) 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 the guests.

       As there is no ferry to the island, a local fisherman, Fred Marracot (Tom Goode) transports any guests and domestic requirements to the house. Today, on his first voyage, he has brought a young schoolmistress, Vera Claythorne (Fiona Forster) and a couple of men. The first is flirtatious Phillip Lombard (Alan Shaw) a cruel mercenary, military officer who has just returned from Africa; he is accompanied by a reckless, self-centred young student, Anthony Marston (Ben Lowther).

       On his second crossing, Fred has ferries the mysterious South African, William Davis (Alan Morris), the semi-senile, war hero General MacKenzie (Les Lee) and the religious zealot, the elderly prim, Emily Brent (Kerry Goode). The last two guests to arrive are a heartless, retired judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave (John Gwilym) and an alcoholic Harley Street medic, Dr Armstrong (Robert Vincent).

      Rogers announces that the 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 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.

 

I must have seen this play half a dozen times over the years, but there are so many red herrings that I still have trouble recalling the killer.

Fantastic director, Susan Vincent has selected a terrific cast, who are each perfect for the rich characters that they depict. There is a good pace to the story, with the chemistry between all of the personalities being both delightful and threatening. You can watch every actor for that slight flicker of a hint as to who the killer is – without success. Top rate performances. There are numerous little details inserted by the director that make the mystery just that little bit more intricate and baffling.

The mood lighting design and powerful soundscape are the hard work of Geoff Holt. He must have had his shoes and socks off, as at times he would have required several hands to create the perfectly synchronised, dramatic and demanding, sound and lighting effects.

I thought the only person left on stage must be the guilty person – the lass working the curtains!

Audiences love a good thriller, and this is one of the VERY best, both by the playwright and this clever Garrick team bringing you terrific suspense.