And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christieâ€™s best known and most dramatised crime novels. Currently touring at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, it is produced by Bill Kenwrightâ€™s Agatha Christie Theatre Company, under veteran director, Joe Harmston.
Given the many film and stage interpretations of the play over the years, Harmstonâ€™s is a refreshing back-to-basics production, set firmly in 1939 (the year the book was published) with an identifiable array of the usual suspects.Â Simon Scullion is responsible for an excellent Art Deco set, complete with impressive circular window, and Matthew Buggâ€™s sound design â€“ waves lapping against the shore, the incipient storm, suitably dramatic end-notes â€“ builds the claustrophobic tension admirably.
The plot is simple; the basis of the current glut of reality TV shows, but Christie got there first. Ten characters are directed to a remote island on a series of false pretences, accused of crimes they (may) have committed, and are left marooned. They start toÂ die.Â Itâ€™s a classic, ensemble whodunit in which tragedy and comedy are comfortable partners.
Since the action is confined to one set, several significant events occur offstage and itâ€™s testimony to the quality performances that this in no way dilutes the increasing drama. If there is a flaw in Harmstonâ€™s production, itâ€™s in the slow beginning. The first Act requires a certain setting-up of time, place and characters, and this is done adequately rather than outstandingly. Thereâ€™s nothing memorable in it, rather a sense of marking time until the first body appears.Â And then, when it does and the mystery rises, the pace picks up and the tension is palpable.
The cast all does justice to their stock-Christie characters. Paul Nicholas is a first class Sir Lawrence Wargrave: grave, measured and oozing entitlement, and Ben Nealon as the rakish, revolver-toting Captain Lombard is spot-on. Kezia Burrows as Vera Claythorne is a thoroughly modern young woman (in a 1939 kind of way), complete with stunning costume from Roberto Surace, and the antithesis of self-righteous, bible-quoting Emily Brent (Deborah Grant). Policeman â€“ or is he? â€“ William Blore (Colin Buchanan) makes a fine trio with Doctor Armstrong (Mark Wynter) and the possibly-lucid General MacKenzie (Eric Carte), and Tom McCarron is convincing in the smaller part of Anthony Marston. No Christie is complete without the staff, and Rogers and Ethel Rogers stoically do their jobs in the face of adversity.
This production of And Then There Were None is not ground-breaking, not a modern interpretation, not unexpected. It doesnâ€™t need to be. It has elements of surprise; it had the audience gasping. What the production is, is an excellent performance of an old-fashioned, thrilling crime mystery.
Performances at the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh, until Saturday 31st October.
Box Office: Tel: 0131 529 6000