“And Then There Were None,” the theatrical rendition of Agatha Christie’s enduring classic and best-selling crime novel, unfolds its suspenseful narrative at the Theatre Royal Nottingham, presenting a tapestry of both triumphs and shortcomings. Premiered in 1943, this adaptation transports the audience to a desolate island where a group of strangers grapple with their concealed dark secrets, setting the stage for a riveting exploration of mystery and intrigue.
Katy Stephens, in her role as the prudish Emily Brent, injects vitality into the character, transcending anticipated dimensions. Stephens’ portrayal serves as a testament to her artistry, seamlessly blending both strong comic elements and believability, transforming what could be a one-dimensional role into a standout gem within the ensemble.
David Yelland, embodying Judge Wargrave, anchors the production with a commanding and level-headed performance. His undeniable authority over the stage provides a crucial grounding force, shaping the dynamics of the play. Meanwhile, Andrew Lancel as William Blore skilfully navigates the intricacies of his character, seamlessly merging robust characterisation with impeccable comic timing. The addition of humour never compromises the depth of Lancel’s compelling portrayal of Blore.
Jeffrey Kissoon, portraying General Mackenzie, delivers a performance that evolves with measured emotion, undergoing a believable transformation as the narrative unfolds. Likewise, Lucy Tregear as Georgina Rogers exhibits strength in crafting a compelling character arc, showcasing a profound understanding of her pivotal role in the evolving drama.
Under Lucy Bailey’s direction, the large ensemble is deftly managed, avoiding overcomplication while navigating the constraints of the set. The challenge of staging a murder mystery in a contemporary context, where genre tropes are familiar, occasionally results in laughter from the audience, undercutting moments intended to be tense or melodramatic. However, the play benefits from well-executed comedy, particularly in the performances of Katy Stephens and Andrew Lancel.
Despite the commendable elements, a palpable sense of tension or dread remains notably absent throughout the production. The consequences of unfolding events lack the gritty realism needed to convey the gravity of the situation. The time constraints for exploring each character’s backstory hinder the audience’s ability to forge meaningful connections, and a more consistent presence leading up to the dramatic denouement could heighten the overall impact.
Chris Davey’s lighting design, while strong in parts, occasionally leaves characters dimly lit without apparent purpose. Nevertheless, the second act’s dramatic choices effectively punctuate key moments, contributing to a visual contrast that enhances the overall experience. Set and costume design by Mike Britton effectively capture the essence of a coastal retreat, with Britton’s ingenious set design blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, emphasising the vulnerability of the characters in their exposed environment.
In conclusion, “And Then There Were None” at the Theatre Royal Nottingham offers a theatrical experience marked by highs and lows. Standout performances, clever set design, and moments of effective lighting coalesce to capture the essence of Agatha Christie’s masterpiece. However, the challenges of adapting a well-known murder mystery for a contemporary audience lead to occasional missteps, creating a mixed yet engaging and entertaining theatrical journey.
And Then There Were None plays at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday 27th January 2024 before continuing its UK tour. Tickets available here.
Photos: Manuel Harlan.