The Agatha Christie Theatre Company’s production of And Then There Were None masters the suspense of a whodunit. Set in an isolated manor surrounded by stretches of sea and sheer cliff faces, this thriller is awash with action where scene after scene brims with tension.
Seeking some salty air and good company, ten very different characters converge on an island manor belonging to their elusive and eccentric host just off the coast of Devon. The party are uprooted from all aspects of society and include a secretary, cook, doctor, and a judge thrust in unfamiliar surroundings and unfamiliar company.
Without giving too much away, a gramophone recording reveals incriminating evidence, bringing the dark pasts of various characters to light. Needless to say the body count slowly begins to rise and as the clock ticks the guests being to realise that the passing hours could be their last upon discovering the murders are based chillingly on an old nursery rhyme.
The plot twists and turns with its carefully laid red herrings leaving you hooked. The cast are successfully ambiguous and certainly provoke some heated interval discussion as to who is the culprit.
On typical form, Christie flits between dramatic deaths and light-hearted wit which this production draws out remarkably well. Elderly spinster Emily Brent (Susan Penhaligon) and resourceful secretary Vera Claythorne (Verity Rushworth) become embroiled in a clash of values and convey their disgust by shooting scornful daggers. Elsewhere, Paul Nicholas as Judge Sir Lawrence Wargrave gives an astute presence and assured determination to solve the case being a master of the law.
The art deco style of this production tips its hat to the original release date of Christie’s novel on which this play is based, the cast decked in a vibrant assortment of 1930s fashion while surrounded by a series of shiny wooden panels.
Meanwhile, ten statues standing on a mantelpiece shatter or slowly disappear as the action unfolds on stage, mirroring the moment murder strikes suddenly or subtly. Any inclination of the outside seascape is encapsulated in the large background window which gradually becomes narrower as the stage becomes darker, casting shadows across the candlelit set while a storm looms and Matthew Bugg’s dramatic sound swells.
Joe Harmston’s production of And Then There Were None is the Theatre Royal’s final production until September and truly excels in its tension levels and ambiguous characters leaving audiences gasping at its breathless conclusion.
The production runs until Saturday and tickets are still available.