Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Large Company Convincing in Creepy Christie

And Then There Were None

Aberystwyth Arts Centre Community Theatre , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , May-19-17
And Then There Were None by Aberystwyth Arts Centre Community Theatre Biography flows too often into reviewing but in this case “And Then There Were None” and I go back a long way. Quite specifically to the village of Uwchmynydd, beyond Aberdaron, at an age when I was too old to be with family but too young to know what else to do. But Agatha Christie's tale of death-by-series, unlike any of her other hundred-plus books, was available to read and had me gripped. The denouement felt stunningly clever and the last pages to its lead-up were chilling. Agatha Christie was introduction to a writer's use of the inner monologue long before I had heard of Joyce or Schnitzler.

The book's ending has been amended for dramatisation to suit the language of theatre. The original is not transferable to visual terms and the closure here is both appropriate and satisfying. Director Stephen Wright has assembled a strong cast for the eleven-strong play. Marcus Dobson is the devil-may-care adventurer with blood on his hands in colonial Africa. Hillary Nunn is the careless gadfly with the wizard overcharged sports car. These two are open about the reasons that their host, Mr U N Owen aka Unknown, has brought them to isolated Soldier Island off the coast of Devon. Tom O'Malley has acquired decades of crusty seniority for the cuckolded and revengeful Great War General Mackenzie. Jess Elder is Miss Brent of a severe religiosity and unbending sense of righteousness. James Cuffe is a saturnine Doctor Armstrong, his forswearing of the free-flowing whiskies and soda a giveaway to his past misdeeds.

The Christie world of fiction like that of John Buchan is a world far gone. The food is drab. Darren O'Connell's Rogers offers the group tongue in gelatine and canned fruit. Jason Philpott's Blore is clearly not cut from the same social cloth as judge and doctor who form a natural alliance. Patrick Kavanagh's Wargrave takes the lead in inquisition of his fellow guests and their common situation. These professional men proliferate on stage at the expense of women. Women, religious extremist aside, are reduced to domestic and secretary in the form of Mair Gopalan's Mrs Rogers and Paula Gallagher's Vera.

Pete Lochery has made an impressively solid set. Nick Bache is technical manager. The wind howls on the cliff outside and inter-war swing music, Billie Holiday and Noel Coward are on the soundtrack. The programme notes lean towards excess. Viewed as a morality play “And Then There Were None” forces “the audience to question their [sic] own moral commitments and beliefs.” Not quite. It is an elaborately staged exercise in malice and murder. The fact of the story's many adaptations is attributed to an “enduring relevance to society.” Not so again; it is a crafted and imaginatively wrought fiction and fiction, an area of theatre in the subsidised realm being beaten into retreat, matters. The production ends with an impressively rendered speech of confessional psychopathy and that is why an audience is here. It is called drama and it has been around quite a long time.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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