And Then There Were None Review: ‘Be ready for thrills and spills’

By August 22, 2015

Theatre & Dance. Leeds.

[All images courtesy of] 

Agatha Christie’s 100 million-selling novel, And Then There Were None, is a masterpiece of suspense and punishment and this Bill Kenwright production does much to reveal all of its wildest possibilities for stage adaptation. Written in 1939, it was first produced for the stage in 1943 when apparently the desperately bleak denouement was sweetened up a bit so as not to dampen the war spirit.

It was given the Hollywood film treatment in 1945, then in 1965 revived for the screen as Ten Little Indians set in a mountain-top castle in the Austrian Alps. While the 1975 flick set in an Iranian desert was disliked by Christie, the 1989 setting of an African safari also lacked the point of this quintessentially English piece.

So for director Joe Harmston it is the specific locality of Burgh Island off the coast of Devon that provides his setting. It comes replete with an art deco set by Simon Scullion that dominates with its huge circular window before which the cast go from civilised socialites to philistine survivalists. Indeed Captain Lombard says early on: “Self-preservation is a man’s first duty” and it really is every man for himself (and the same applies for the two women too!)

In this examination of crime and punishment, Christie once more reminds us that the murderer in our midst may not look the part at all. And indeed, right from the outset, the entire cast stand accused, by whom we know not, of having blood on their hands in one form or another. As I mentioned in my Mousetrap review there are similarities with Sartre’s existential No Exit, but here not quite as philosophical.




The real craft of the writing comes in the cunning character studies that are then intertwined so convincingly, if surprisingly, to give the play a real organic depth and utterly riveting exposition. As ever there are smatterings of clues, red herrings that could be bluff or double bluff and we, the audience as sleuths, must decide.

This is Harmston’s tenth year of touring Christie and his expertise is revealed in a perfect pace, masterful blocking and set pieces, and drawing out a fabulous ensemble performance without a loose link. And proof of this comes in the audience engagement with the stage action – one woman lets out an ear-piercing scream in the row behind me at the sound of a gunshot, there are conspiratorial murmurs and gasps all aghast.

There are aspects almost identical to The Mousetrap with its gradual entrance of guests one by one to a remote property (in The Mousetrap this is a B&B cut off in the snow, here it is an idyllic holiday home on an island). And like the use of Three Blind Mice in The Mousetrap, here Christie follows the lines of the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians to fulfil her murderous, practically apocalyptic fantasies. But then, once you’ve hit a winning formula, why change it?

Once more no spoilers here, but be ready for thrills and spills on the way in this enchanting crime classic that serves both to shock and entertain simultaneously.

And Then There Were None runs from 17 to 22 August at the Grand Theatre Leeds and is touring until 21st November 2015.


Rich Jevons