And Then There Were None
|7th October 2023
|Kingsbridge Amateur Theatrical Society
|Malborough Village Hall
|Type of Production
Author: iain Douglas
In this area of the country, Agatha Christie is a fairly major force of nature. She lived at Greenway House, just up the river from Dartmouth, after having spent her childhood in Torquay. Many of her novels and plays are influenced by local areas, and so is the case with this famous play, which, over the years has had its name changed from the original title which could now be seen as rather racist.
Agatha Christie plays tread a fine line between plot lines and mysteries that can seem fantastical, but at the same time are believable and often ordinary. Her plays and books are a part of our culture and considered very British. While characters are dropping like flies, there is something very homely and comforting about an Agatha Christie play.
This play is set on Indian Island (inspired by Burgh island Hotel, an art deco beauty, not many miles from this performance venue). The story is well known, but briefly, 10 people receive a mysterious invite to stay at the hotel on the island. We then discover that each has a secret, and each has committed murder in the past. Gradually, they are dispatched one by one, by various means until no one is left. It’s a genius plot which has ensured the plays survival over the years.
The principal theme here is one of justice. Ex Judge Wargrave despatches punishment on each character in turn as a form of justice for the murders that it transpires each character has committed in the past (and which the judge knows about from her past cases). By gathering the characters all together on an island, this sets them apart from the world in an isolated space and also creates a gathering feeling of claustrophobia. As the remaining numbers dwindle, so the inevitable feeling of impending doom gathers for the characters. No matter what they do, or how clever they try to be, death is inevitable. This is presented as a type of game being played by the protagonist, whereas the deaths of their victims are presented as tragedies that need to be remedied by justice. Other principal themes here are those of guilt (as displayed by some of the characters) and of course revenge (as displayed by Judge Wargrave).
KATS have a great reputation with their musicals and plays and this was no exception and it was one of their best dramatic offerings in recent years. It was beautifully directed and designed by Jill Brock. She very successfully built the feeling of doom, and of desperation as people are gradually killed off. Pace was very good indeed. This did lead to some very swift deaths to ensure pace was maintained but it mattered not. In this play, the nature of death is rather irrelevant as the audience are drawn into the mystery to actually discover who is the perpetrator. This is of course one of the ten. I gather there are two endings, and in this production, Wargrave kills herself at the end, thus leaving no one alive.
Jill has a great eye for detail. The set was superb. Clearly based on the art deco Burgh Island Hotel, it was full of clean lines and well-chosen furniture and props. Lighting was very effective and we really did get a feeling of nothingness in the distance out of the windows, thus adding to the feeling of isolation.
Characters were well drawn, and performances were excellent. Christie plays always present a good variety of persona, and another of her favourite themes, that of class, is well presented here. We have the staff, and we have the well-heeled, and those in between. We have pretty young things, and grouchy bad tempered Grande dames. We have arrogant young men, and genial old codgers, but all have a secret, and those secrets are gradually revealed as the drama increases.
I am not going to single people out as every one of the cast was superb, and there were some great performances which I enjoyed enormously. The cast had clearly worked very hard to ensure the atmosphere was maintained. There was not a single dull spot and some great cliff hanger moments.
Many congratulations to Jill and the entire performance and technical team for pulling this off so well. It could easily have been a bit cranky, but it worked beautifully.