Wednesday, September 20, 2017

And Then There Were None - Review - Royalty Theatre

And Then There Were None
Royalty Theatre 
19th September 2017

The stage is set for Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" - as the house lights dim, the stage lights come up to reveal a drawing room, the furniture covered in dust sheets, curtains drawn across French windows. Two servants enter and begin to remove the sheets - Mr and Mrs Rogers (Lee Wilkins and Emma McLeary) are preparing for the arrival of house guests, they reveal that the hosts have been detained and that the first of the guests are due to arrive.
Fred Narracot (Ben Gettins), the local boatman, has delivered the supplies and is sent off to bring the guests across by boat. The house - Soldier House - is set on an island accessible only by boat, and with no telephone or other means of communication with the outside world. Eight guests are expected, they are all strangers to each other, their only connection that they have been invited to stay at the house by the hosts Mr and Mrs Owen, and that  each one has a secret from their past, a secret they would rather no-one else knew about. These secrets will have dire consequences for each guest and the Rogers.

Act One introduces the characters one by one, the glamorous Vera Claythorne (Helen Bowie) and the suave Philp Lombard (James Errington) arriving together, followed by the spoiled rich boy Anthony Marstsen (David Ford), the South African millionaire Mr Davis, alias William Blore, ex policeman (John Appleton), the eccentric General McKenzie (David Armstrong), self righteous Emily Brent (Christine Appleton), the superior Judge Lawrence Wargrave, and the very nervy Dr Armstrong (Chris Renney). They are a disparate group in both social standing and character, with no obvious connection and seemingly no idea why they have been brought together on the island. Each one has a different story as to how they were invited. As the act progresses their characters are revealed leading to the surprising climax of the act - an anonymous recording revealing each ones' secret, the accusations against them, and the death of the first victim. As the characters realise that one of the soldiers on the mantel is missing the lights go down silhouetting them against the windows of the drawing room, and the curtain falls on Act One. It is a dramatic end to the Act.

In Act Two the bodies begin to pile up as characters drop like flies. Suspicions rise, accusations fly and tempers flare as the horror of their situation dawns and one by one the characters fall.

The tension and suspense are nicely done. Seeming friendships and alliances are formed and lost as suspicion grows. Outbursts of anger and frustration hint at who the killer might be - perhaps Mr Rogers or Vera Claythorne? Or perhaps Dr Armstrong or Philip Lombard? Everyone is a suspect. The only certainty is that those who have already died cannot be the murderer.  Or can they?

There are some strong performances - particularly by Lee Wilkins, Helen Bowie, James Errington and Andrew Barella, though to be fair everyone in the cast gives a decent performance. Dramatic and timely use of sound and lighting enhance the tension throughout. The stage set is uncluttered and the costumes pleasingly understated (apart from the swaggering Philip Lombard - that blue suit is a killer!).  Billy Towers and Abbi Laidler direct with a deceptively light touch.

A solid opening for the Royalty's new season. If you have not read the book, this will keep you guessing - if not whodunit, then why and how?
And Then There Were None runs until Sat 23rd Sept.
Denise Sparrowhawk

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