And Then There Were None

Agatha Christie’s classic And Then There Were None is difficult as a play. The self-serious tone of the novel feels contrived on stage, and actually seeing people thrust into such a contrived scenario in person is patently camp compared to reading it on the page. Close Up Theatre’s production, while energetic, fails to adequately contend with this element of the script, and doesn’t maintain the relentless intrigue the play requires.

And Then There Were None is a play with built-in challenges, especially for a Fringe venue and timeslot. Close Up Theatre’s production had intensity and personality, but failed to deal with these obstacles in a satisfying way.

And Then There Were None is a classic of the Golden Age of mystery novels; ten strangers are trapped on an island, slowly being killed off one by one. As panic sets in, identities and motivations are questioned, and no one can be trusted. An intriguing premise is complicated by the facts of the case: each of the characters are connected to an unsolved murder, and the method of each killing is connected to a nursery rhyme. The exactness of these complications is what makes the story so interesting, but also undercuts the suspension of disbelief. This is epitomized by ten small soldier statues representing the ten victims, which slowly and surreptitiously disappear as the body count racks up – a clever conceit, but dubiously realistic when scrutinised.

Believability, then, became the production’s overriding problem. The young cast give admirably spirited performances, but don’t adequately sell the ridiculousness of the situation. The reactions to the first few deaths in particular raise an eyebrow; this should be the most important turning point of the play, and yet everything feels strangely subdued and rushed. A few individual performances stand out, particularly Max Thomas as Justice Wargrave who displayed a stoic intensity and strong stage presence throughout. Thomas also did an excellent job of playing older; while this wasn’t a huge problem for the rest of the cast, it’s a little hard to believe these actors as the various ages they’re supposed to be.

These problems were compounded by a somewhat bloated runtime and uncreative staging. This production relied very heavily on blackouts, but the nature of the venue meant that virtually everything was entirely visible which undermined some of the mystery; a more creative staging might have alleviated this issue. Additionally, the use of ambient music was overall a distraction – though often effective in creating tension, it was overused on the whole, and left the impression that the entire production was set to a slightly-off musical score.

And Then There Were None is a play with built-in challenges, especially for a Fringe venue and timeslot. Close Up Theatre’s production had intensity and personality, but failed to deal with these obstacles in a satisfying way.  

Reviews by Jared Liebmiller

theSpace on Niddry St

Julius Caesar

★★
Greenside @ Nicolson Square

And Then There Were None

★★
Pleasance Courtyard

The Toxic Avenger

★★★★
Paradise in Augustines

Radio

★★
Assembly Hall

My Real Life

★★★★
C cubed

An Act of Kindness

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Christie’s masterpiece lures 10 strangers to a remote island, systematically meting out the justice they have each been escaping. A dark, tense and haunting thriller. Close Up Theatre is one of the Fringe’s most enduring companies and has been awarded sell-out status from 2004-2016. 'Gripping' ***** (CounterCultureUK.com on 1984, 2016). 'Excellent' **** (ThreeWeeks on Richard III, 2015). 'Outstanding' **** (EdinburghSpotlight.com on Arcadia, 2013). 'Brilliant' ***** (BroadwayBaby.com on Death of a Salesman, 2011).