Ten strangers are lured to a house on a remote island and accused of murder – only to face death themselves – in this classic Agatha Christie tale.
The early scenes are busy with multiple characters establishing themselves, with some necessary degree of caricature to gain traction with the audience, and substantial exposition as we delve into each of the mysterious house guest’s back story.
It does mean a slightly slow start, and while Mike Britton’s design – dominated by a floating curtain that travels around stage – makes for easy scene changes, its light-weight appearance doesn’t add to the sense of ratcheting up that makes the novel so powerful. A half-height back wall is also distracting, with actors sometimes (purposely) partially visible as they assemble in a ghostly fashion.
The characters meet their ends one by one in line with the words of a rhyming poem found throughout the house – which gives the story its name – and with the thinned out cast list we get to explore them in more detail. This gives scope for some solid portrayals from the remaining ensemble, especially Sophie Walter, David Yelland, and Joseph Beattie.
This touring version takes a mid-point between Christie’s ultra-bleak original ending in the novel and the more optimistic finale of her stage adaptation. It is easily the most captivating sequence in the play, and staged with some flair by director Lucy Bailey.
The production could have squeezed some more tension and suspense out of the story, which remains a dark and disturbing one more than 80 years after being written, but still offers a morbidly enjoyable outing for one of Christie’s most well-regarded tales.
- And Then There Were None continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, February 3, 2024