On paper this might not have been one to grab you immediately; a traditional drawing room murder mystery by Agatha Christie might sound like a bit of a lumbering theatrical dinosaur. I’m more than happy to say this is far from the case. In fact, far from a lumbering dinosaur, this adaptation of one of Christie’s best known books is a thundering charging rhino of a show.
And Then There Were None, showing at the Grand this week, has been adapted several times over the years, usually with a title change from its far from PC novel’s original. Ten Little What Boys? Yeah, the copy I have is not one to leave out on the coffee table without causing a tidal wave of offence. It has been adapted in a number of ways and formats since then. My favourite so far has to be the classic Tom Baker Doctor Who re-imagining, Robots Of Death. Doctor Who also gets another tie in as part of the exceptional ensemble cast is second Doctor companion (also my personal favourite companion) Jamie McCrimmon played by the ever watchable Frazier Hines.
An Art Deco house on a deserted rock of an island, ten guests and staff all with dark secrets, a murderer… Oh, and there is a storm coming in that will isolate them from the mainland for the night. Agatha Christie gives us every ingredient for a night of thrills, the whodunnit doesn’t get much better than this. But no more plot points as spoilers must be avoided.
The cast has to be talked about as without the strength and seamless performances of everyone involved the tensions and drama could have fallen a little flat. You can only get so far with a twisting concept, taut situation and isolated setting, all of which are first rate in the show I should add. The cast though were as strong and able as you could have wished for. A mix of TV heavyweights played their roles with diamond honed precision. Without spoilers: Paul Nicholas (powerful and commanding), Mark Curry (a terrifically portrayed bag of collapsing nerves), Colin Buchannan (steadfast and enigmatic), Eric Carte (stalwart and full of pathos), Paul Hassall (a wizard ball of self obsessed energy), Ben Nealon (thoroughly charming), the afore-mentioned Frazer Hines (wonderfully self serving servility), Verity Rushworth (a revelation, like an Art Nouveau statue given life in a standout performance, by turns charming/chilling), the ever wonderful Susan Penhaligon (severe and nuanced, always a pleasure to watch), Judith Rae (fussy, harassed and fun), and Jan Knightley (a solid reminder of the ‘real’ world off the island). It was a joy to watch a cast so at ease with the form and the story fairly sped along as their numbers dwindled through the play’s twisting plot.
I always say the best special effects are the ones you create in your head, and grisly death after death will keep your noggin going at full pelt; people hacked in half with axes and crushed under falling bronze statues are just some of the treats you get to imagine. Joe Harmston’s direction positively fizzed on stage; it’s wonderful stuff.
This review is a little short, I admit, but giving the labyrinthian plot or the red herring wrong footing twists and turns away would spoil the fun, and fun it it is with spades, in fact enough spades required to fill the many graves that are needed by the final curtain.
And Then There Were None runs until Saturday 25 of April and is a must see for a solid, entertaining, if not a little sinister, theatrical treat.
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