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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs

And Then There Were None

Pavilion Theatre, Rhyl

Director: Joe Harmston
Producer: Agatha Christie Theatre Company and Bill Kenwright

Cast Includes: Gerald Harper, Chloe Newsome, Dennis Lill, Alex Ferns, Gary Richards, Jennifer Wilson, Peter Byrne, Mark Wynter, Doris Zajer, Bob Saul, Michael Gabe.

May 19 – May 24 (Then Touring).
WOS Rank: ***

Image: And Then There Were None Promo image


Murder most foul and with twelve-hundred devotees packing out North Wales’ second largest theatre on a warm and balmy evening to witness events, surely it’s a mystery that’s a doddle to solve? Well, no, actually as it goes, but the riddle of Agatha Christie’s enduring popularity is less of a conundrum. My word the woman could tell a story and few, if any, had the ability to weave so many twists into a plot and still come out the other end into an oasis of clarity in quite in the way she did. Imagine her writing in today’s world, with the grip on censorship less rigid. Mo Hayder and Val McDermid would certainly be given a run for their money, no matter how great they are as writers.

 

Thing is, does Christie’s genius transfer to the stage and screen? Sometimes yes, depending on the Director, and here with The Agatha Christie Theatre Company’s third outing, Joe Harmston certainly delivers the goods and gets the best from his impressive cast.

Ten men and women from different backgrounds have been called to Soldier Island somewhere off the coast of Devon, by a Mr U. N. Owen. Quite why they would answer the call from a man they don’t know is explained somewhat vaguely, but let’s not let a detail get in the way of chilling premise. Each of the ten has a guilty secret – which, naturally, Owen reveals to the assembled courtesy of a recording played just before dinner – and one by one they get popped off in line with the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Soldier Boys.
The set is vast and fills the Pavilion’s stage beautifully. A drawing room made of oak, with a huge circular window looking out on sunset of serene beauty underlines the remoteness of Soldier Island perfectly, as cries of gulls drift quietly across the auditorium.

Alex Ferns, once Little Mo’s nemesis, Trevor, in Eastenders, is all pomp and bluster in the role of Captain Philip Lombard, playing the part with an energy – and slightly camp edge – that is as good as it is laudable. Over the top histrionics do, it seems, have a place in modern theatre.

Chloe Newsome, once Steve McDonald’s wife, Vicky, in Coronation Street, is equally as engaging as Vera Claythorne, bringing vulnerability to the role that is quite charming, but nonetheless captivating as the murder count rises.

One quibble is that during the first fifteen minutes or so, the voices of the assembled get somewhat lost, and Gerald Harper’s lines are most to suffer as his character, Judge Wargrave, is a study in quietly spoken composure. Still, the veteran actor comes through in the end and delivers a masterly performance of sinister appeal.

Another is the way the curtain falls and separates the changes of scene and so snaps the audience all too readily out of its fictional dream. This is particularly apparent at the close of Scene I, where it takes something close to three minutes to rearrange sets and costumes.

Once the curtain rises again, however, it is Dennis Lill’s representation of Blore, the undercover Detective that takes proceeding quickly along. His brashness and blundering give the play a pace that might otherwise be lost and so adds humour in all the right places with great style.

Exaggerated in places the play may be, but this is Agatha Christie we’re talking about, and all in all this is a first rate – not to say Wizard – production of a firm favourite. You may have seen the films, the 1945 version easily outranking the rest, but still Joe Harmston has managed to add a neat little twist of his own at the end, which is sure to set people talking as they wend their way home at the end of a good night of drama and intrigue.

 



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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