As a big fan of murder mysteries, I was particularly excited to review supposedly one of Agatha Christie’s finest. And what a way, Feather Theatre Company’s production of And Then There Were None proved to be a way to kill some time on a Thursday evening!
I have to say, upon arriving I was a bit concerned. The theatre was small, the stage itself wasn’t either, and the audience were almost sitting in the set, but despite all this I was wonderfully surprised. It was intelligently done. Set as a lounge, relaxed, and believable in its arrangement with artfully placed drinks and books it was homely, yet not cluttered. The size of the theatre meant that you were truly thrown into the play, physically as well as mentally. In as small a theatre as the City Theatre, using just a single room for the entire play could be considered claustrophobic. Yet this merely acted to confine and pressurise the tension created, influencing the audience’s own reactions; we were captivated rather than bored. The use of one set allowed for a total focus on character development and the lighting, getting darker and darker, helped to reflect the continuously obscure and intense atmosphere.
Yet it was not only the clever use of staging and lighting that impressed. All the actors performed very well; the standard of interaction with one another was remarkably consistent. Nicola Samosa’s Anthony Marston was convincingly ‘laddish ‘and Mo Hafeez’s Detective William Blore reflected his adaptability, providing humour in the beginning, but also sincerity later on in the play. Hugh Johnson, playing Philip Lombard, was notable from the outset. His sleazy, supercilious interpretation was really good; at times I almost shuddered at his ever wandering hands and the accent used was perfect, with just the right amount of upper class condescension. The character of Dr. Armstrong (Matthew Chalmers) was developed well. His portrayal of a deteriorating mental state was effective and his outbursts were believable. Despite taking a little while to get into it, something that could be said for the whole production, once it had got going the action was continuous and the play was really quite lively.
The pièce de résistance was undoubtedly the third and final act of the play. As someone who has never seen, or read, this particular Agatha Christie work, I was beautifully surprised with the sudden reveal of the murderer in the final scene. It has to be said, despite obviously performing a very well-known play, it was this particular cast that truly made the conclusion to the ‘whodunit’ classically satisfying. Vera Claythorne (Izzy Murray) and Lombard’s final interaction was emotive, especially the use of fake blood with the gunshot. Yet, I could not write this review without raving about Dan Hodgkinson’s portrayal of Judge Lawrence Wargrave. Later reading in the programme that it was only his second play, I was astounded. The conviction of character was thrilling, if slightly terrifying. Watching from the audience, I could feel Vera’s fear as if it were my own. It was brilliantly done; I even shied away from Hodgkinson as I walked out of the theatre.
Altogether it was a really sound performance. Mostly scene changes were fluid; the music chosen was effective in creating a genuinely unsettling atmosphere that left me almost wanting to turn around to check there was no secret killer skulking about in the midst of the audience. The only drawback was a rather long scene change, at one point, where the music seemed to play for a very long time. The success of the little snippets of music became tedious when seemingly the whole song played and members of the audience were visibly confused. It was a difficult one, as I can see why it was done: almost the whole song playing for effect called for a turning point in the play, making it evident that there were only three characters left. The fact that this was really the only shortcoming, however, reflects the quality of the performance as a whole. Comical, captivating and, at times, truly chilling, this play is a must-see for anyone who enjoys a classic and well-executed thriller.
Photograph: Van MildARTS