From 14 June to 14 July, the Palace Theatre, Paignton played host to Bijou Theatre Productions presentation of Agatha Christie’s best selling novel, ‘And Then There Were None’. Directed by Jill Farrant, the action takes place in a secluded house on an island, where ten people are stranded and death walks among them.
Television schedules are full of murder mysteries where police or private detectives or nice old ladies are solving crimes left, right and centre. One thing we know about TV crime these days, whether it be Midsomer Murders or CSI, your body count has begun by the first set of adverts if not the end of the opening credits – Christie here allows a gentler opening.
‘And Then There Were None’ is fun because you’re waiting for people to start dying, yet it takes a long time to set up the characters. You’re looking for an obvious detective figure, but this is a world of every man for himself.
There is strong characterisation all around the Bijou cast with no weak link. Jon Manley as Philip Lombard and Julie Smith as Vera Claythorne stand out as will they/of course they will couple – whilst Ian Cooper delivers a delightfully cool judge to balance Colin Baker’s nervy doctor of nerves.
I enjoyed the use of seating – allowing the full cast on stage for one scene with the reveal of who they are to each other and why they are there, without looking awkward. The early humour as characters arrived and were introduced with apologies for an absent host were playful.
Once the deaths start there’s no stopping this script, which finds momentum in the second act. Each person explains a back story that led to their being involved in somebody’s death, resulting in powerful scenes from Chris Mackenzie-Thorpe as General Mackenzie and Yvonne Tilley as Emily Brent.
With many a twist before the conclusion, the play deviates from Christie’s novel, but in a way greatly satisfying – with the final three characters each displaying a level of madness that they could all be the killer. The threat than ran through the performance was very real, and the tension held until the end. If I wasn’t already a nail-biter, this would be nail-biting stuff.
The only thing that let down this production was the venue. Unfortunately, the Palace Theatre was uncomfortably warm, leaving an audience a little sleepier than you might expect – many a programme was doubling up a fan come the end of the night. Not a fair reflection of the show, which was a thrilling night out.
Although the run at the Palace is over, you can still catch the same cast at the Flavel, Dartmouth as they tour from 19 July to 21 July with a matinee on the Wednesday.
For more information, visit: www.theflavel.org.uk