I can’t say I really understand the resurgence of Agatha Christie, but she is coming back in a powerful fashion. Modern adaptations are trying to balance the camp of the older works with a darker, more realistic tone, and Rowan Wishart’s interpretation of And Then There Were None is a perfect example of this. It kept an even hand of fun and dark and managed to make a compelling, thrilling mystery out of an 80-year-old story. But there were technical inconsistencies throughout that kept it from being quite as exactly tuned as it could have been.
The Setting: Soldier Island, The People: a group of oddly connected strangers, The Mystery: Each of them are being murdered along the lines of a nursery rhyme. It’s as typical a Christie story as you can get, and as such, is all about ensemble interactions. The cast of this play held this play on their backs, and overall did a fantastic job making each character seem fully fleshed out and compelling, especially impressive for how many new actors were in this cast. Special mention goes to Olli Gilford as Justice Wargrave, Clemmie Beresford as Mrs. Brent, and Eleanor Burke as Vera Claythorne, who did the most to make the play feel grounded and real. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t funny and campy because much of the first act and much of the breathing room that the play took towards the end was full of some brilliant humor, and compelling interactions. And most importantly, as the cast narrowed as each character was killed off, the stage seemed to narrow with it.
The struggles, though, came in the execution. Most notable was audio, both of the actors and of the music. The Byre is a surprisingly large space, one that can drown out sound if you aren’t careful, and a lot of the inexperienced actors simply weren’t loud enough to be heard all the time. This was compounded by a very harsh use of sound design, that was frustratingly loud in musical interludes. That said, the music, composed by Oli Savage, was very well done, with a specific piece that used the plunk sound of a basic string with some drum beats created a fantastically tense atmosphere. The set was large and imposing, necessary to fit such a large cast, but I could have done with some variation in color, rather than the pure monochrome the production went for. It set well against the costumes though, which brought, for the most part, bright unique colors. Finally, we have tech, which was for the most part rather understated, save for an extremely impressive lightning bolt effect used in the second act.
As much as I love camp, I don’t usually go for the works of Agatha Christie, because it isn’t self-aware enough. This is the opposite. As the director said in her note, it’s a good, fun murder mystery, why try and make it anything else. This play was funny, fun, and more than a little bit scary sometimes. What more could you ask for in a murder mystery? Even with its flaws, it was definitely perfect for a Wednesday night’s entertainment.