And Then There Were None (Devonshire Park, Theatre, Eastbourne)
I had quite forgotten that Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery which we are not allowed to call by its proper name nowadays was now known by the title And Then There Were None. So when I saw that there was a touring production of it I thought it was some Sound of Music spoof about nuns.
But how wrong I was! For who should be touring this production but the marvellous Agatha Christie Theatre Company, most of whom I now know very well indeed and send the regulars homemade gifts for Christmas, including pottery wig holders and lace watchstraps.
The last time the Agatha Christie Company was at the Devonshire Park Theatre was last year when Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV) played Poirot in Black Coffee. This was, of course, that infamous production where all the lights went out on first night and we were all sent home because nobody had a shilling for the meter. I seem to remember I got home and enjoyed a warming Horlicks – I wouldn’t have had a black coffee, because in the show someone was poisoned when they drank coffee and I didn’t want the same thing happening to me or who would have put the bins out the next morning?
This classic whodunit is one of Agatha Christie’s finest works. She wrote lots of books including Lord Edgware Dies but this is about 10 people who are brought to an island for a special purpose and stranded by someone anonymous, a bit like the TV series Lost or I’m a Celebrity.
Needless to say it was all very exciting and all the cast – many of whom are extremely well-known for their TV appearances – were really good. I always enjoy this sort of play because I play a game where I shout out the name of an actor and the TV show they appeared in before anyone else can when they make their first appearance, and it always attracts favourable comments from other audience members.
One by one the characters died mysteriously and – in the absence of Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV) – it was up to the audience to try and guess whodunit, helped along by the famous rhyme counting down from ten to one until finally, of course, there were none. It all got a bit confusing as different characters kept picking up one of the model soldier boys lined up on the mantelpiece, but I don’t think we were supposed to see that.
Paul Nicholas (probably still best loved for his Top Ten hit Grandma’s Party) was really good as Justice Wargrave, and he brushed his hair back to look sly and authoritative, which just goes to show how professional he is. Colin Buchanan (probably best known for the little-known Space Island One on TV) was really good as ex-policeman Blore, who occasionally spoke with a South African accent, demonstrating once again how versatile Mr Buchanan is.
The lovely Susan Penhaligon (who has been in three different episodes of Casualty) played an old lady who did a lot of knitting, which was key to the plot. I think she was probably knitting a sweater because it didn’t look the right size for socks. The lovely Mark Curry played Doctor Armstrong, who was very suspicious throughout until he completely disappeared between scenes and I’m not too sure what happened to him because I was concentrating on a maple walnut ice cream, which I treated myself to after some trauma earlier in the day involving a bookmark with Shaun the Sheep on. I always enjoyed Mark’s days in Blue Peter, especially when he got all muddy on one of their holidays, though I found myself thinking how much had changed since the days of Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton.
The lovely Verity Rushworth (best known and loved for her appearance on Ghost Hunting with the Dingles) played Vera, the former governess, and she spent a lot of the time being hysterical. I would probably have given her a slap had I been stuck on an island, but I suppose you can never tell how you are going to react to such an experience until you undergo it yourself, and I haven’t. Frazer Hines (who played Jamie on Dr Who many years ago, though I still remember him in Emergency Ward 10) played the dignified butler. In many whodunits the butler did it, but it can’t have been him in this case as he was killed off half way through the play.
The lovely Ben Nealon (who has also been in Casualty) is always very good in these Agatha Christie productions, and was very good as Philip Lombard, a bold and cunning ex-mercenary, who admitted his ‘crime’ though carried a gun which was probably his undoing, especially when it went off. I was also impressed with Paul Hassall, as young Anthony, who was very reckless and lacking in remorse, but he choked well. I know what it’s like choking on something as I had an unfortunate incident the other day when I choked on some popcorn in the cinema when I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and would probably have died had it not been for a young man called Bertram who had to carry out the Heimlich manoeuvre while the lights were out and Maggie Smith was delivering a dramatic speech.
Funnily enough the lights went out during one of the intervals in the play and I was worried about who would come out to tell us to go home early because Robert Powell wasn’t in this production and he did it so well in Black Coffee. That would have been a funny coincidence, but all was well and a crisis was averted, which was a good thing.