Directed by Dexter Whitehead
A magnificent stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best selling novel is being performed at the award-winning Sutton Arts Theatre. Under the strong direction of Dexter Whitehead, this excellently cast production brings the chilling murder story to life... right in front of your eyes!
The story, set in the late 1930s, takes place in a large house on the remote Soldier Island off the coast of Devon. The guests have received personal invitations from millionaire owners Ulrick and Una Owens. Mysteriously, having accepted the invitations, the guests discover that none of them actually know the Owens. The Owens never arrive (surprise surprise) and the guests become trapped as sole inhabitants of the island when a storm breaks out at sea. A somewhat creepy, framed print of nursery rhyme ‘Ten Little Soldier Boys’ hangs above the drawing room fireplace and the sinister pattern of deaths that follow thrillingly coincide with the verses in the rhyme, along with the mysterious disappearances of the soldier figurines that were placed upon the mantelpiece before they arrived.
It takes a strong and competent cast to deliver a play of this complexity and the actors really have excelled. The portrayal and attitudes of the personalities are spot-on for the era, as is the diction, interaction and pace of conversation. Put this together with a luxurious set and truly excellent lighting scheme and you have a show that I am sure Christie herself would have thoroughly approved of.
Roger Shepherd and Jenny Gough play the busy house servants, Shepherd maintaining a gentle and willing disposition in opposition to his wife’s more spit-spot and ship-shape manner. Phebe Jackson portrays a perfectly gorgeous and flirtatious Vera Claythorne playing mainly against Robbie Newton as the handsome, chivalrous and self-preserving Captain Phillip Lombard, a former mercenary soldier with sharp wit and survival instinct.
The young, wealthy and reckless Anthony Marston is played energetically by Giles Wharton, portraying Marston’s perfectly wizard sense of humour and later delighting the audience with a most dramatic dying scene that in itself deserves an Oscar. Richard Howell plays William Blore, the South African millionaire Mr Davis who is later revealed as an undercover former policeman. Blore tries in vain to unravel the murder mystery, only to meet with a grizzly end.
Paul Westcott is the retired WW1 hero, General Mackenzie, an all-doom-and-gloom character strong in stature, reminiscent, yet ridden with guilt over a former crime. Theatre stalwart Dorothy Goodwin plays Emily Brent, the religious, respectable and remorseless spinster with a delightful and wicked style of cynicism. Goodwin’s many years of stage experience ensures the character is played whole heartedly with convincing sarcasm, her dramatic bible reading adding to the already chilling atmosphere.
Patrick Richmond-Ward, another of SAT’s stalwarts, is perfectly cast as the sullen Sir Lawrence Wargrave, portraying the retired old judge with his unquestionable air of authority, leading the investigation with a strong sense of justice. The quiet and gentle Dr. Armstrong is played by Mark Nattrass. Armstrong’s medical knowledge draws suspicions amongst the other guests and he is often labelled as a suspect. Nattrass portrays the teetotal character brilliantly and leaves us guessing as the doctor's past crime is revealed.
The cast is supported by Lee Connelly as Fred Narracott and Ian Eaton as Ulick Owen, who make brief yet poignant appearances.
The old saying ‘tis the light that brings it to life’ is celebrated in this play. The changes of lighting throughout the day are brilliantly designed, whether against the balcony sea-view, the evening sunset, the drawing room candlelight or the forked lightning - the lighting design captures and sets each scene. And even rain against the outside windows demonstrates the level of detail the production team has gone to. Great sound design, musical interludes and sfx - a couple of cheeky jump-scares are cleverly weaved into the plot to keep the audiences on their toes.
Those who know the story will undoubtedly enjoy this version - and those who don't will be kept amused throughout and and applaud a jolly good Whodunnit ending.
SAT are known for their beautiful and well constructed set designs, furniture, props and costumes and this production has certainly captured every element of great acting, production technique, continuity and whole entertainment value celebrated by professional companies.
Great entertainment. Well worth a ticket.
Runs to 8 September
Contains smoking on stage
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