City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None", King's Theatre, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 27 October 2015

Kezia Burrows as Vera Claythorne in her glamorous gown (photo credit Pamela Wraith)
Show Details
King's Theatre
The Agatha Christie Theatre Company
Joe Harmston (director), Simon Scullion (designer), Roberto Surace (lighting), Matthew Bugg (sound)
Paul Nicholas (Sir Lawrence Wargrave), Colin Buchanan (Willliam Blore), Deborah Grant (Emily), Mark Wynter (Dr. Alexander), Kezia Burrows (Vera), Mark Curry (Rogers), Ben Nealon (Philip Lombard), Eric Carte (General MacKenzie), Judith Rae (Ethel), Tom McCarron (Anthony Martson), Jan Knightly (Fred Narracot)

"Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine little Soldier Boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight...

……. And then there were none”.

Agatha Christie was inspired to write a crime novel based on this nursery rhyme (aka Ten Little Niggers or Indians, a 19th century Irish minstrel song). First published in 1939, “And Then There Were None” is the world’s best selling mystery novel with over 100 million sales to date.

As she said in her autobiography, “I wrote it because it was so difficult to do .. ten people had to die without it being ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book with a tremendous amount of planning .. it was clear, straightforward and baffling".

Following its success, Agatha decided to adapt the plot into a play, only to be advised that it would be “unplayable, people would laugh, there would be no tension.” But the Queen of Crime persevered and it opened in London in 1943 for a 10 month run, and also great success on Broadway.

The 125th anniversary of Christie’s birth is being celebrated by this revival with a cast of well known music star and TV faces including Paul Nicholas, Mark Wynter, Deborah Grant and Colin Buchanan.

August 1939: Ten people have received the same invitation to stay in a luxury mansion on an island off the coast of Devon. Based on Burgh Island Hotel, (a favourite retreat of Christie’s), the setting is the chic, modernist drawing room with Cubist art and French windows leading out to a Terrace. One by one, the guests arrive by boat, suitcases in hand, all intrigued by this surprise house party.

The sun is shining, they smile happily, admiring the beauty of the island, beaches and sea, anticipating a summer retreat. This is “a haven of peace”, one guest comments. But for the audience this is a chilling remark, as we are only too well aware of tragic events about to unfold.

Greeted by Rogers, the Butler, they settle in and get ready for dinner and over martinis and whiskies, introductions are made. The guests include Sir Lawrence, a Judge, Dr. Armstrong, General McKenzie, Vera Claythorne, a governess/secretary, Emily, a moralistic, religious lady, and Anthony, a rich, sportscar-mad young man.

Then, by way of a gramophone, a recorded voice accuses each guest of their guilty secret, revealing that they have all committed murder in the past. At first it seems like a practical joke by their absent host, but gradually personal stories of unfortunate incidents and accidents are revealed. All claim total innocence of any crime.

Stranded on the island, one by one the guests begin to die in macabre circumstances, following the narrative of the Ten Little Soldiers song. An unknown assassin is intent on brutal revenge and the sunny dream destination for this house party is now a terrifying nightmare. Out the window, storm clouds gather and the wind howls.

The 1930s period and social context is charmingly evocative - the elegant costumes, tweed jackets, hats, black tie dinner suits and a stunning plum silk, sequined evening gown worn by the slender Miss Claythorne.

Agatha Christie was extremely pleased her adaptation from page to stage had worked out well. “ You could feel the fear and distrust that rise between one person and another, and the deaths were so contrived that never has there been any laughter or the whole thing being ridiculously thrillerish.”

Seventy two years on since the premiere, the King’s Theatre audience last night were genuinely gripped by this baffling, thrilling puzzle of a murder mystery, trying to work out who the revengeful vigilante could be.

With its briskly-paced direction and crisp cool, mannered performances, this vintage Who Dunnit blends stylish glamour with gruesome violence. Dexter meets Cluedo.

Show times
Monday 26 – Saturday 31 October, 2015
His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 2 – 7 November, 201
More tour dates,

For crime drama fans, there are more Agatha Christie and Murder mysteries coming to the Theatre during the winter season.