And Then There Were None

Lymington Players  The Malt Theatre, Lymington Community Centre, Lymington  Philip & Julie McStraw 26 February 2024


Agatha Christie’s perennial favourite  And Then There Were None is the first production of 2024 by the Lymington Players at their home in the always welcoming and friendly The Malt Theatre in Lymington.

Many people will have an inkling that they know something about this celebrated play, even if, like ourselves, they haven’t actually seen it or read the book upon which it is based.

The book itself was first published in 1939 and went on to become one of the all-time best-selling books in the world, with over 100 million copies sold.  Both book and play were originally published in the UK with the highly controversial title of ‘Ten Little Niggers’ and subsequently, for a while, with the no less unfortunate title of ‘Ten Little Indians’ before settling on its given American title of ‘And Then There Were None’.

Christie uses the macabre 17th-century short poem ‘Ten Little Soldier Boys’ as an epigraph to her story. In the poem all ten soldier boys come to a grisly end, concluding with the suicide of the last soldier and the line: “and then there were none”.

The play pre-dates Christie’s other blockbuster ‘The Mousetrap’ by almost ten years and has been continuously performed since 1943 –indeed there is a major new production currently touring the UK. Moreover, it has been an inspirational source for many other writers of the genre – the recent hit film ‘Glass Onion – A Knives Out Mystery’ is a good example.

To further whet the appetite, and without giving too much away to those who are not familiar with the story, we can tell you that the play begins with eight strangers arriving at an isolated Mansion on an island off the Devon coast. They are the guests of their mysterious and illusive hosts Mr & Mrs U N Owens, (a pun on ‘Unknown’). The guests are being looked after by Thomas, the butler, and his wife Ethel, who is the cook and housekeeper. During after-dinner drinks it becomes apparent that each and every one of them, including Thomas and Ethel, have dark secrets and they are all accused of having committed murder, that went unpunished by law. It also becomes evident that none of them will ever leave the island. Before long they start dying one by one, but who will be next, who is their assassin and why are they seeking retribution?

The Director of this Lymington Players production, Edward Funnel, and Producer Janette Russell, clearly know how to faithfully present this Agatha Christie classic. They have created a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment, from the opening to the last scene, which was greatly appreciated by the audience on the sell-out opening night.

Suspense and intrigue are at the fore even before the stage curtain is raised with the playing of an eerie and menacing ‘gramophone’ recording of the Ten Little Soldier Boys poem – sounding as if it was pressed in the 1940s, complete with blips and scratches. The stage set is relatively simple, but with some nice period touches.  The Malt Theatre stage is tight for space so the furnishings needed to be well thought out to give adequate room for the cast of ten to move around– which they all do with good timing and delivery.  Above the stage are ten large pendant ceiling lamps, that are extinguished one by one at the appropriate times… A clever device that builds on the tension of an already ominous atmosphere.

Each of the players brings believable authenticity to their individual roles and they execute their parts with vigour and solid acting competence. Needless to say, the bigger the part the more naturally dominant the character, but it would be unfair to single out anyone for particular praise. There is good chemistry between all ten actors throughout the performance. They work well together as an ensemble and generate a satisfying result that is greater than their individual parts.

The show runs until 2nd March, but it’s already completely sold out!  So, make sure you book early for the Lymington Players’ next production.