And Then There Were None

Date 25th October 2013
Society Irving Stage Company
Venue Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds
Type of Production Drama
Director Kathryn Smith
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A

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Author: Julie Petrucci

Agatha Christie is a writer who often surprises audiences. Unlike many writers of drama who tend to bring out the best in their characters, Christie is not afraid to bring out the worst in hers. A perfect case in point is Irving Stage Company’s recent production of And Then There Were None 

A remote island. One lonely house. Eight guests and two servants who've never met their host/employer, and a creepy nursery rhyme called "Ten Little Soldiers," which tells how each little soldier gets bumped off. When the guests start dying, one by one, the plot thickens, because the murderer must be one of them. 

Not being a particular fan of the open stage I have to admit that if ever there was a case for it, this was it.  The set design and properties breathed period, bringing murmurs of appreciation as the audience took their seats. The period costumes too were excellent, as were the wigs and make-up. The lighting and sound designs by the Theatre Royal staff were good but unfortunately and frustratingly all the cues seemed to be out so that we had sound in either inappropriate or incorrect places and lighting when there should have been none. Such a shame.

The direction by Kathryn Smith, making her directorial debut, was very good apart from the odd brief bits of masking which, with ten actors on stage at some points was understandable, and a couple of  pointless moves.  She nonetheless understood the period of the play giving us a beautifully stylised production.

This play was well cast with actors who seemingly relished playing their stereotypical characters. Everyone managed to overdo it with just the right amount of stiff-upper-lip Englishness. It would have been so easy to give in to the temptation to go “over the top” as today’s modern audiences inevitably laugh at stylised dialogue and the predictable “he’s dead” lines.  The pace was good and the tension built well and they kept the audience guessing as to who would be the next victim. 

John Lintin (Justice Wargrave) led the way with a controlled and polished performance and a spectacular death.  Julie Merrick (Miss Emily Brent) showed her character was definitely a force to be reckoned with. A lovely strong no-nonsense performance. 

I was much impressed with Ben Young (Rogers the Butler): his well maintained demeanour throughout was excellent. A true Jeeves.  Stuart McLellan (Dr. Armstrong/Narracot) was genuine in his nervousness and sensitivity.  Steve Whitaker (William Blore) was sincere and blustery bringing out both the required personas of his role.  Ian Norris (General Mackenzie) gave a nice grumpy yet sympathetic performance pointing his loneliness as a widower well.  Eddie Marriott (Anthony Marston) made his debut with the company and I am sure he gained much from working with the more experienced cast members. The first to be dispensed with he died a well-controlled and convincing death.  Christian Jenner (Mrs Rogers) also did a fine job albeit with an appearance almost as brief as that of Mr Marriott. 

However, the play hangs on the acting of Nic Metcalfe (Captain Lombard) and Sarah Allen (Vera Claythorne). Both were excellent and their empathy brought a touch of levity and romantic lightness to this mystery. 

Credit to everyone involved for bringing intimacy, style and humour to a play heavy in doubt, suspicion and death.