By Emily Mitchell
This production of And Then There Were None captures all the nihilistic, twisted glory of arguably one of Christie’s darkest tales in an intense showcase of rising talent.
This joint production brings together the Green Door and Bailey Theatre Companies in an explosively engaging and intense night of theatre. I loved how there is this bleak sense of inevitability haunting the production and Maria Galimberti & Matthew Bourne’s direction expresses this in every scene. From the subtle touches in backdrop choices to the acting styles, you feel a constant sense of something inexplicably tragic and thought-provoking. At its heart, this is a story about guilt, justice and retribution. I loved the way the various confessions were forced out of characters, with the sense that they’re being torn out and the physical effects this has on various characters. Faced with this ultimate judgement, characters accept their fates in various ways, almost akin to stages of grief before the event. The atmosphere and intensity created here is exquisite and really immerses you in the mystery atmosphere. Credit here has to go to the excellent staging which felt immersive and lived in, but was also bare enough to really allow space for the actors to shine.
This is a stacked cast. Every character felt perfectly cast, embodying their characters completely and offering subtle details that enriched their roles. I would often dart my eyes around the stage and every single person was giving me little motions and mannerisms that kept the illusion going throughout. The physicality of these actors must also be commended, with constant choices that kept you on your toes in regards to the overarching mystery. Often, a line by one character would trigger a background reaction for another for those particularly keen audience detectives.
Lucy-Mae Bly’s arc as Vera Claythorne is devastating to watch, as is the gradual progression of Nick Lemieux’s Dr Armstrong into madness and paranoia. James Roberts brought a real sense of pathos to Philip Lombard, with possibly the most nuanced portrayal. Behind the blustering flirt, there is a tragic truth that is only revealed near the end. Niamh Hoyland’s Justice Wargrave provides a fascinatingly complex character that plays with the audience. I have to highlight Isabelle Lepore’s final monologue as General Mackenzie, which was a shining moment of the production. Matthew Cook’s ‘wizard’ performance of Anthony Marston also provided some much needed light relief, which was continued in darker tones as the play marched onwards. Archie Nolan’s William Blore is a difficult role, combining charm and confidence with darker touches, but Nolan pulls it off with ease. Alessia Laird just became the snooty, impervious and antiquated Emily Brent in a way that made me love to hate her. Ben Rook and Emma Shackleton as Mr and Mrs Rogers conveyed their dynamic in such a natural and easy way. Every one of these characters has something to hide, meaning that actors must show their complexities and touches of guilt in every moment. That’s a steep task, but this cast is more than up for it. Also, I have to shout out Will Russell with his brief but brilliant Fred Narracott.
Nathan Jarvis’ lighting is superb. It gets warmer and more intimate as the characters begin to be removed from the scene, accentuating certain moments and crucially obscuring others. Personally, it just felt so intuitive and woven into the beating heart of the show, matching the pace and tone perfectly. As the truth starts to come out early on in the play, the light seems to get harsher to the point of almost becoming blinding. It becomes an interrogation light for the audience playing detective alongside the characters. Similarly, the costuming by Tuva Lægried was inspired. I loved how it betrayed tiny details of characters’ pasts but also foreshadowed what was to come. Also, it encapsulated the character, but with a definitely modern feel and touches.
The same can be said of this production as a whole, as it brought a classic Christie tale to a new audience. I have to comment on the way the audience hummed with a discussion of theories and excitement during the changes between scenes, the interval and on the street afterwards. That’s always a mark of good theatre and indeed of an excellent murder mystery. Finally, the finale genuinely gave me chills. It was so impactful, engaging and essentially everything I’ve missed in live theatre. Those last few scenes are heart-wrenching, emotional and upend everything you thought you knew. The actors blew me away with their talent. This production of And Then There Were None is a masterclass in tension, atmosphere and atmosphere that highlights a new wave of incredible talent well worth keeping an eye on.
Image Credit: Green Door and Bailey Theatre Companies