And The There Were None Review

The Grand Theatre, Leeds – 17th August 2015

The superb Kenwright season continues in Leeds with the very talented Agatha Christie Theatre Company presenting And Then There Were None

I love a good murder mystery, and this is a really good one. A true 5* production.  The play stays true to the original novel and does well to build up the suspense, as well as getting the audience to laugh, gasp and sigh throughout as we turn all the different corners in the story.

Set on a small island off the coast of Devon, the guests of a mysterious Mr Owen gather for a weekend away at the millionaire’s mansion, but he never turns up.

Directed by Joe Harmston, who has spearheaded all of the productions of Christie’s plays the Company has toured over the last ten years. His experience shows clearly here. There is no lame attempt to update the play or tinker with it in ways counter to its ingenuity. No. Harmston approaches the staging with respect and considerable care.

A gathering of strangers, separately invited to a weekend house party through letters from a mysterious stranger, soon begin to realise that they have been duped into becoming victims of a twisted and disturbed character. The idyllic island surroundings soon become a terrifying trap as one-by-one, the characters meet their fate.

The first act was a little bit slow, but it works, especially with so many characters playing a vital role it was necessary to make sure they all had a proper introduction – to each other and the audience. The second act was full of suspense and had many audience members on the edge of their seats and debating with their companions who they thought the murderer was.  And the final reveal was genius

Ben Nealon, a veteran of eight Christie plays, is terrific as the good-looking but possibly slightly/completely unhinged Captain Lombard. This is a stock Christie character: the charming rake with a shady past, a good chat up line for the ladies and a revolver. Nealon gets the style precisely right, his accent and delivery spot on and his sense of total investment in the character and situation impeccably judged. His welcome  energy is the pulse of the play.

Deborah Grant, almost unrecognisable as the cantankerous and self-righteous old windbag Emily Brent, is thoroughly believable while Kezia Burrows makes a convincing job of portraying vivacious Vera Claythorne. She wears the stylish clothes of the time to great effect and looks as though she’s stepped straight out of a 1930s fashion magazine (all credit to Amanda Ozdonmez and the costume team for the amazingly realistic-looking apparel). In particular THAT dress is beautiful

The rest of the cast – Neil Stacey, Gary Mavers, Mark Curry, Frazer Hines, Eric Carte, Tom McCarron and Jan Knightley, along with Judith Rae as Ethel Rogers, settle perfectly into their roles as though they lived through the thirties themselves.  Watching the paranoia, suspicion and decent to madness is a joy in itself

Simon Scullion’s excellent Art Deco set, Matthew Bugg’s sound design and  Roberto Surace’s costumes all help to give the production the finishing touches that help make the outstanding actors believable.

With twists and turns to the end this is a classic whodunnit and you need to get to The Grand to see if you can work out the ending before the big reveal