REVIEW: And Then There Were None
Fear and Loathing in Queen’s Fitzpatrick
Staging one of the best-known crime stories of the history is quite a hard nut to crack. And Then There Were None is the ancestor of the genre of psycho-thriller and the ‘isolated cabin in the woods’ horror stories. The cast playing in the Queen’s College, however, succeeded to grasp the play from a new angle, refresh it, and add a new moral dilemma to the worn-out story.
For those who have been living on a deserted island so far, similar to the one in the play, or for those not letting their reading standards fall below Ulysses, the And Then There Were None is originally Agatha Christie’s influential novel, which she adapted to stage in 1943. In the play ten people are gathered together on an island on the invitation of a mysterious and never seen host. It soon turns out that the only common connection between them is being accused of murder. Suddenly someone starts to hunt them one by one, while there is no escape from the island.
Since it is more a psychological game, than a usual crime, the characters go through a transformation due to the extreme pressure on them. Yet the members of the cast can perfectly adapt themselves to the changing circumstances of their characters.
Before the first tragedy happens they evoke the thirties’ class-based hierarchy in a persuasive way and are reliably occupied by their everyday activities. The sketchy setting is also well designed for the changeable mood. Although Queen’s might not struggle with finding some antique furniture somewhere in a dusty corner, the same archaic room can be seen both as a place of an unclouded holiday and as a death row. The lights and noises express the inner shift in the soul as it turns from sunny daylight into a stormy night.
Taking the risk of performing not short plays and skits, but having a larger cast, is a rare scene in Cambridge. However, the actors of the And Then There Were None brilliantly embody the ten really different characters and personalities. Even in the smaller parts there are outstanding performances.
Ed Bankes is convincing as the rousing Marston, and Yuxi Chen has such a strict look as the religious spinster that I felt embarrassed wearing my flimsy dress in the first row. Eduardo Strike as Wargrave dominates the stage despite his disabled character.
The emotional and psychological game between Thea Mead as Vera and John Wheatley as Lombard is flawless. The crackup of Mead’s otherwise calm character is subtle and well-driven. Wheatley is so perfect in Lombard’s skin that it will be hard to imagine this character differently in the future. Generally, the constant distrust and the ‘Which of us?’ feeling provokes an unbroken tension between all the actors. The final game is so thrilling, that the gooseflesh was crawling over my body while watching it.
It is important to highlight the valuable directorial approach of not letting the play get stuck in the colonial and non-egalitarian mentality of the thirties. They preferred the most PC version of the script, and the gender makeup of the cast is also balanced. Choosing women for male parts is a good trick in reflecting the incorporated injustice of an otherwise masterpiece play.
Slightly changing the end of the original play makes a huge difference in the whole message of the well-known story. It leaves new questions about justice, innocence and guiltiness hanging in the air after the curtain fells.
In this case, literally hanging in a noose.