And Then There Were None is one of those plays that glues the audience to their seats, making them gasp with trepidation. Based on Agatha Christie’s famous murder mystery novel, the storyline is among the most intriguing and suspenseful plots ever created. Full of twists, turns, and sinister suspense, the dramatic adaptation currently running at the Jacqueline du Pré Auditorium lives up to the greatness of the novel.
The play presents us with ten strangers on a remote island, all invited by a mysterious Mr UN Owen. They seem to have hardly anything in common, but it soon becomes clear that they all hide some terrible mischief in their past, which they have not paid the penalty for. At the pace of the nursery rhyme ‘Ten Little Soldiers’, they all disappear one by one, until…
From the outset, the costumes and set for this production were remarkable. The Jacqueline du Pré Auditorium (St Hilda’s College, Oxford) hardly has the resources of a larger venue such as the Oxford Playhouse, but the attention to detail in the furniture on stage and the actors’ clothes was admirable. It ensured the play had a consistent and refined ’30s flavour, immediately giving the production the potential to be more serious and ambitious than most Oxford student drama.
The actors matched up to the ambition of their surroundings. The ten main characters were vividly portrayed, each with their own personality: we found ourselves introduced to the austere General Mackenzie (Exir Kalamabadi), frankly creepy Emily Brent (Laura Gledhill), loud William Blore (Callum Luckett), nerve-wracked Dr Armstrong (John Constable), and so on. The talented cast reached its apex with Andrew Clump in the role of Anthony Marston (utterly brilliant in his choking scene), and Ela Portnoy as Vera Claythorne, who performed excellently throughout the play.
The most pervasive aspect of the play was undoubtedly its slow build-up of tension. As the characters slowly but inexorably ‘went missing’, moments of apparent calm alternated with instants of pure panic. Throughout the play, this pattern intensified, leaving the audience captivated by the onstage events. The most successful scenes were those with fewer people on stage, where the sheer diversity of reactions and character traits had the space to emerge fully. I was struck by the way the death of the judge was represented on stage: it not only reminded me of, but almost looked like what I had imagined when I read Agatha Christie’s novel. It is a shame that the ending, which should bring all this tension to a resolution, was something an anti-climax, with the two inspectors acting on stage looking almost as if they had been put there by chance.
A few mishaps could perhaps easily have been avoided (a couple of moments of forgetfulness, some characters not easily understandable or audible, a little confusion with lights and sounds). Provided they are not repeated, the play has the potential to be a thrilling evening of entertainment. After a slightly shaky start to the year with their production of The Importance of Being Earnest, St Hilda’s College Drama Society Society is definitely heading in the right direction with And Then There Were None.
‘And Then There Were None’ runs at the Jacqueline du Pré Auditorium until Thursday 26th November. Performances start at 7.30; for more information and tickets, please visit the St Hilda’s College Drama Society website.