The cast is on song, but the play is off

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Arts Theatre Cambridge: until SaturdayWith Agatha Christie you get what it says on the tin. No life-changing, deeply moving theatrical experience.

Ivan Howlett

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Arts Theatre Cambridge: until Saturday

With Agatha Christie you get what it says on the tin. No life-changing, deeply moving theatrical experience. Rather, an intriguing, sometimes scary puzzle.

Confession time. I always have three or four books on the go at the same time. One is always a detective novel. That addiction has led me, in my time, to read hundreds and hundreds of them. To be frank, when it comes to writing style the so-called Queen of Crime, isn't for me anywhere near top of the quality list. It's not just me. Anthony Burgess was very vitriolic about her novels and PD James, who is a good writer, is no fan


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She has always of recent times been blessed with high quality performance and production values in TV adaptations, especially featuring the wonderful Joan Hickson and David Suchet's Poirot.

When it comes to the stage, however, it's a different matter. The Mousetrap has been running for 55 years. In And Then There Were None, which first emerged as a play in 1943, you can see what has made her so popular and what makes the Christie whodunnit fans flock to performances. It's the sheer ingenuity, the almost computer-like brain she has for plot construction

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Here, ten strangers are invited to an island off Cornwall. They think they're in for jolly weekend. However, it soon emerges that they've been lured there. Each - and this includes a judge a doctor, a policeman, a secretary, and a general - has committed an unpunished crime and dire retribution awaits. On by one they are murdered, according to the children's nursery rhyme. But, by whom?

Director Joe Harmston has assembled a classy and familiar cast - Gerald Harper, Mark Wynter, Jennifer Wilson, Denis Lill and Peter Byrne (remember Andy Crawford in Dixon of Dock Green?) among the older ones; Chloe Newsome and Alex Ferns the younger..

I'd especially pick out Gerald Harper's stylish judge, Denis Lill's terrified copper, and Chloe Newsome's elegant young secretary..

The pacing's good and manages to keep us from getting too bogged down in plot detail. Simon Scullion's wood panelled set, which allows us to look out to sea through a huge round glass door, is very Thirties.

The packed audience, many of whom clearly knew how it would turn out, still enjoyed being scared by it.

Ivan Howlett

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