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And Then There Were None at Theatre Royal Brighton

Agatha Christie spent several years adapting her highly successful 1939 Crime Novel into a play and then had problems getting it staged in London’s war-torn West End, as managements said it was impossible to produce. In the end it was mounted at Wimbledon Theatre in September 1943, quickly transferring into Town where it ran for eight months.

Katy Stephens - And Then There Were None - UK Tour - Photo credit Manuel Harlan.
Katy Stephens – And Then There Were None – UK Tour – Photo credit Manuel Harlan.

For those who have never come across either the book or the play, the story begins when eight strangers arrive at an isolated mansion situated on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon. During the evening, the two domestics have been ordered to play a gramophone record which accuses everyone present of past crimes, unpunished by law. Gradually all begin atoning for these past misdemeanours…

The current touring production benefits from a highly stylised set designed by Mike Britton, showing the house facing over the sea and later on making it appear as if it is right on the beach. A moving gauze is effectively used to confine the action and the ‘mood’ lighting (Chris Davey) is very imaginative, even if it means that in certain parts of the stage, faces are always in shadow, especially downstage centre.

Lucy Bailey has directed the play, attempting and often succeeding in making it seem less ‘dated’ than it sometimes appears, by having the ‘ghosts’ of some of the characters’ pasts appear at times as if to remind them of their crimes, as well as altering the denouement so that it is more like the original novel. Less successful is her portrayal of the two female domestics as lovers.

In a uniformly strongly cast production, David Yelland impresses as Judge Wargrave, someone who swayed a jury into bringing in a verdict of guilty against a man many thought to be innocent, then sentenced him to death. His is a calming presence, much needed at times.

Sophie Walter as former governess Vera Claythorne is also very successful in remaining calm but then suddenly becoming panic-stricken when required!

Joseph Beattie is former soldier of fortune Philip Lombard, very believable in his role, and Andrew Lancel has cunningly developed a slightly “stagey” accent as former police officer (or so he says…) William Blore, so that time after time we suspect him of…

Bob Barrett portrays Doctor Armstrong as someone much in need of medical attention himself! Could he really have operated on a patient whilst being drunk?

Emily Brent is a truly suspicious character from the moment we meet her, especially as portrayed by Katy Stephens, and it is easy to see how someone so bigoted could have caused harm to another.

Likewise, it is easy to believe that Lucy Tregear as Mrs Rogers committed an evil deed that she hoped would never be discovered! Undoubtedly a woman with a past!

This production of And Then There Were None is quite gripping and most entertaining – at least if the reaction of the near-capacity audience at Theatre Royal Brighton on the first night is anything to go by. Neither of my ‘neighbours’ in the Stalls had read the novel or seen one of the many TV/movie adaptations and were completely caught up by the shenanigans on stage! Just the tonic for a bitterly cold January night! It is touring until April if you fail to see it at Brighton (only one hour from London Victoria!!) including ATG theatres at Milton Keynes, High Wycombe, and Birmingham.

Highly recommended!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

Ten strangers are lured to a solitary mansion off the coast of Devon. When a terrible storm cuts them off from the mainland, and with their hosts mysteriously absent, the true reason for their presence on the island becomes horribly clear, as secrets from their past come back to haunt each and every one of them.

And Then There Were None is not only Agatha Christie’s most-read work, but also the best-selling crime novel of all time. Selling over a 100 million copies worldwide since its first publication in 1939.

The full cast are Bob Barrett (Holby City, Propeller West End and UK Tour) as Doctor Armstrong, Joseph Beattie (Hex and Silent Witness) as Philip Lombard, Oliver Clayton (National Youth Theatre and The Play That Goes Wrong) as Anthony Marston, Jeffery Kissoon (National Theatre and Complicite, Allelujah!) as General Mackenzie, Andrew Lancel (National tours, West End and Coronation Street) as William Blore, Nicola May-Taylor (Rutherford And Son) as Jane Pinchbeck, Louise McNulty as Understudy, Katy Stephens (RSC, Globe and London’s Burning) as Emily Brent, Lucy Tregear (The Country Wife) as Georgina Rogers, Sophie Walter (The Girl On The Train) as Vera Claythorne, Matt Weyland (Witness For The Prosecution) as Narracott/Understudy, and David Yelland (Poirot, Foyle’s War and The Crown) as Judge Wargrave.

Following her hugely successful production of Witness for the Prosecution, director Lucy Bailey returns with UK Theatre Award-winning set and costume designer Mike Britton, lighting designer Chris Davey, sound designer and composer Elizabeth Purnell and movement direction by Ayse Tashkiran to direct this bold and exciting reinvention of Christie’s greatest murder mystery. Casting is by Ellie Collyer-Bristow CDG, fight direction is by Renny Krupinski and the assistant director will be Victoria Gartner.

General Management for the tour is by Rich Jones with Production Management by Setting Line Production Management. The Stage Management Team will be Sian Wiggins, William Buckenham, Sara-Jayne Smith and Lewis Mote with Wardrobe headed by Natasha Hancock.

And Then There Were None is at:

Theatre Royal Brighton
Until Sat 13 Jan 2024

Milton Keynes Theatre
Tue 6 Feb – Sat 10 Feb 2024

The Alexandra, Birmingham
Tue 5 Mar – Sat 9 Mar 2024

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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