And Then There Were None – a deathly good mystery that keeps you guessing
Ten little actors went out to play, upon the StAge in Mermaids’ production of Agatha Christie’s killer (sorry) tale“And Then There Were None”. Directed by Charles Vivian, this adaptation tackled the trials (pun intended) of theatrical murder mystery with a deft hand, given the difficulties presented by avoiding a dead giveaway (really sorry) in Scene 1.
The performance saw the hot, sweaty throngs that usually populate 601 give way to a 1930s mansion reception room, with furniture scattered across the space between stage and seats, whilst the stage itself served as a gateway to other parts of the house and the rest of Soldier Island. Whilst an efficient way of constructing the geography of the location, I have always struggled to see most of what happens when productions choose to use the floor space in the StAge – which they almost alwaysdo. Why use the floor when there’s a perfectly good stage right there? Perhaps we just need better raked seating.
The performances overall were very good, with some great characters being created. In particular, Emma Dalton’s portrayal of Emily Brent drew plenty of laughs from the audience and held her own amongst the louder characters from the second she stepped onstage. Another notable performance came from Donavan Kelly’s General McKenzie, with his eerily superfluous posh accent and keen sense of timing.
Sadly, I cannot fully judge how well the murderer’s identity was concealed given that I knew exactly what was going to happen. However, I did miss at least two key moments of murderous activity, despite knowing what I was looking for. Either I physically couldn’t see, they didn’t happen, or the sleights of hand were so ingenious that I missed them entirely. A mystery, indeed! Nonetheless, judging by the reactions of fellow attendees, the murderer was indeed a mystery until the end, which is commendable.
There is one thing the play as a whole could have benefitted from: a little more life. Difficult, perhaps, given that it’s mostly about death, but a play with so much dialogue and so little on-stage action can grow stale at times. It could be as simple as giving characters more choreography; perhaps moving the whiskey or the statues to a more central place to provide an axis for the action. Scene changes and dramatic moments (e.g. the gramophone playing or the big reveal) may have been approached with more dramatic flair – murder mysteries can be as camp as anything else!
Yet, admittedly, by the time you have figured out how to subtly kill people onstage, there’s probably not much more rehearsal time to add the extra panache a smug Christie superfan like me needs. “And Then There Were None” certainly delivers on the mystery, and is sure to leave the uninitiated scratching their heads as they leave Solider Island to the sound of ITV’s “Agatha Christie’s Poirot”’s soundtrack (delightfully on-theme music, unlike certain Union events…).