How do you get an actor’s character to fall off a cliff on stage? How do you get ten little Indian models set on a small table to disappear ‘unseen’ one by one until only three are left? Who is the murderer still left in the remote house on an island when people are being bumped off right, left and centre stage? Tense? You will be if you dare to go and see this terrific production of And Then There Were None at the Nottingham New Theatre. There are more cliff hangers in this play than just the one man hanging off a cliff. Queue red lights and chilling music!
Agatha Christie’s novel and play And Then There Were None is one of best in her murder mystery canon. Indeed it has been widely acclaimed as her masterpiece and has been made into many a film version and the recent 2015 three part TV version for the BBC. The dramatic style of the piece has also been influential in providing a base, if not a whole dramatic structure, for countless Gothic horror movies and other murder stories. Very rarely do they match up to the genius that is Agatha Christie. The original book is read all over the world in over 50 languages.
Situated on an island, the story tells of ten strangers, apparently with little in common, who are lured to an island Mansion off the coast of Devon. Within minutes of the play unfolding there is tension in the air as each of the guests arrive. Over dinner a record plays a voice track which accuses each of the visitors of deathly deeds and murder. Each person accused hides a guilty secret and very soon reckless driver Anthony Marston (Jeremy Dunn) is found dead from a deadly dose of cyanide! Paranoia sets in as the murder mystery evolves over three short acts and the Ten Little Indians poem framed on the wall seems to predict each coming murder!
There are universally excellent performances in this terrific production and the first-class set by Ollie Shortt is a stylish triumph and very believable as the living room in the Mansion. The wood planked floor design suggests the proximity of the sea as does the wide open backdrop that is used to indicate the sky line and the changing moods of the weather and drama. Simply furnished with some old style leather chairs and featuring an open plan Art Deco style door and patio fence, this set has an unencumbered style that suits the play perfectly.
As always with Nottingham New Theatre the acting in this production is first rate and director James Fox has clearly worked hard with his cast to ably demonstrate the deliberately rather stiff body language of most of the men in the cast. The young attractive secretary, Vera Claythorne (Niamh Caines) is pitch perfect in her vocal styling and discrete mannerisms. Domineering, bible reading Emily Brent is beautifully under played in a rather frightening way by the excellent Charlotte Sanders. Izzy Miles plays miserable maid Ethel Rogers so grumpily well that one can feel the audience mentally begging the plot to get her killed off as soon as possible before they get up en mass and kill her and her constant griping tone, themselves. Sometimes these small roles are the most fun to play.
In reviewing it is hard to mention every person in this most excellent cast but we will anyway. This production does have some especially good performances on stage from Harry Pavlou as trigger happy Philip Lombard, Omid Faramarzi as plain clothes policeman William Blore, Arnaud Lacey as a rather mature, grounding and sober Sir Lawrence Wargrave and Max Miller bewhiskered as the retired army officer General MacKenzie. East Midlands Theatre loved James Roscoe’s conciliatory butler Tom Rogers- ever the servant even after his wife Ethel has been cruelly killed off. Roberto Loza plays the boatmen Narracott – a character that, even though he only physically appears at the beginning, has a distinct ‘referred about’ presence throughout the play. Finally we have a beautifully twitchy and utterly credible Dr Armstrong – specialist in nerve diseases – from slightly framed Gary Berezin. “But who amongst all of these is the murderer?” you may impatiently ask. Well now, that would telling wouldn’t it…
Reviewer: Phil Lowe