Agatha Christie’s first and most successful murder mystery play will be brought to life on the Ladysmith Little Theatre stage next week.
Cast members and crew are putting the final touches on And Then There Were None, directed and produced by Mort Paul, for its Sept. 13 opening.
Audiences can expect the whodunit appeal of a well-written murder mystery, along with a plethora of unsavoury characters to suspect. That is, until they are murdered.
“The thing about Agatha Christie is the characters are always interesting, so you always see somebody you know in there,” said Paul. “It’s going to be interesting to see the audience getting sucked in. We set it up so that it looks like several people might have been able to commit the murder.”
The story takes place on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon, where eight strangers have been lured to a mansion by a Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen, each with the promise of a weekend getaway, money or the company of a former acquaintance. When they arrive on the Island, they discover that their hosts are not there to greet them, but that they will be attended to by Thomas and Ethel Rogers. In each of the guest’s room is a framed copy of the the nursery rhyme Ten Little Soldiers. The guests also notice 10 soldier boy figurines on the dining room mantle.
During coffee, a mysterious record is played on the gramophone, accusing each of the 10 guests of committing murder. Each guest acknowledges awareness of the deaths they have been accused of; however, with the exception of one guest, Philip Blore, they do not take accountability for the crime.
Shortly after discovering they cannot leave the Island, the characters are murdered one by one, each death paralleling the nursery rhyme, and each time a figurine is removed from the mantle.
One of the unique aspects of And Then There Were None is that each murder appears to have been accomplished within full view of the audience. As each character is murdered, those remaining are sent into a frenzy of psychological paranoia until the true killer is revealed.
“Part of the fun is the energy,” Paul said. “You keep getting sucked into the suspicion as to who’s murdering everybody, just as the detective who’s been hired to keep an eye on everybody. He keeps changing his mind; so does the audience.”
The script of And Then… is an adaptation of Christie’s novel Ten Little Indians (originally titled Ten Little Niggers, it was changed in the U.S. and at later date in the U.K. due to the presence of the pejorative term). With more than 100 million sales, it is the world’s best-selling murder mystery and one of the best-selling books of all time.
“Her big problem in doing the adaptation from the novel was, in the novel, everybody dies, and she felt you couldn’t do that in a play, so she had to rework the ending,” Paul explained.
The cast and crew of And Then… are an eclectic mix of seasoned and new additions to the Ladysmith Players family.
Debbie Cameron brings 17 years of theatre experience to Ladysmith, after having just moved to the area from the mainland.
Cameron is a self-described adrenaline junkie who has performed on stage, television and film. Some of her credits include Tony and Tina’s Wedding and The Vagina Monologues, and last year, she completed a film with the National Film Board of Canada in the role of Emily Carr.
“I think when I landed in this world, I landed on the stage; it just took me a while to figure out where I could perform,” she said.
Revamping the traditionally male role of Dr. Armstrong in And Then There Were None into a female role has provided an intriguing challenge for Cameron, who has generally performed in comedies on stage.
“It is a stretch for me because it’s beyond my comfort zone. It’s easier to make people laugh,” she said. “[But] Mort, the director, has great insight and is a gentle manipulator. He knows what he wants.”
And Then… made its first debut in Ladysmith eight years ago, put on by the Yellow Point Drama Group.
Revisiting his role as Thomas Rogers is Doug Robson, and performing in a new role as the devout Emily Brent is Inge Cathers.
Stage manager Marni Hastings is also new to the Ladysmith area, but Paul said she has been doing a fantastic job on the set.
And Then There Were None runs Sept. 13-30 at the Ladysmith Little Theatre. As with previous performances, the dinner show performances will feature foods in theme with the era and theme of the production.
For tickets or show information, call the box office at 250-924-0658 or visit the Ladysmith Little Theatre’s website.