Review: “The Cast Harnessed Intensity Fearlessly”

Agatha Christie adaptation of And Then There Were None at Grand Opera House York did not disappoint. Hannah Willey reviews for SCENE. 4 stars.

(Image: Manuel Harlan)

Agatha Christie is perhaps one of the best mystery writers of all time, and And Then There Were None is one of her most popular (and best-selling) novels of all.

With big shoes to fill, this re-telling by director Lucy Bailey does not disappoint.

The play features ten strangers who are lured to an island, only to discover that their hosts are not present. 

The plot thickens when the characters start dying one by one and the remaining guests are forced to conclude that someone is trying to murder them all.

An intense, multi-faceted mystery, the audience finds the characters’ unravelling pasts just as mysterious as their present – which questions typical perceptions of guilt and justice.

The cast harnessed this intensity on stage fearlessly, portraying moments of insanity, terror, and desperation with a commitment that absorbed everyone watching. 

I’ve never heard so many audible gasps from an audience!

Sophie Walter, who plays the elusive Vera Claythorne, was particularly striking in these moments, at times commanding silence in the theatre simply with her ragged breathing.

The cast’s chemistry was smooth and comfortable, with up to ten actors on stage interacting without a hitch.

There were a few pointed changes to the characters: the original Mr and Mrs Rogers were transformed to the couple Georgina Rogers (Lucy Tregear) and Jane Pinchbeck (Nicola May-Turner). This stabilised the imbalance of male and female characters (originally seven men and three women), as well as introducing some queer representation.

It was also great to see the script addressing the racist history of the novel and the time period it was set in. Refusing to allow Philip Lombard’s (Joseph Beattie) murder of an East African tribe to go under the bridge as it has done in the past, the characters have a haunting moment of guilt and contemplation after the defence is made: “they’re just natives.”

Another source of intensity was the violence and horror depicted, portraying detailed deaths and pulling off jump scares. It is safe to say, if you’re not prepared for a little horror this might not be the right play for you! However, there’s a careful balance drawn between horror and comedic moments, providing some relief from its sinister story.

There were moments where the plot and logic became a little unclear; while someone familiar with the story might not have struggled, my friend who did not know the plot beforehand said the ending “didn’t make sense.”

Compressing the novel’s content into three hours at times made scenes a little dense, or rushed. Though this is somewhat inevitable, perhaps some information needed to be prioritised differently to achieve clarity. 

For example, the first half of the play was mainly used to set the scene, leaving the rest of the events to play out in the last 45 minutes, apparently to the extent that it became hard to follow.

But, if you’re happy to have your brain teased and love yourself a murder mystery, Bailey’s adaptation of Christie’s work is a must-see, absorbing you from start to finish.

The best selling crime-novel of all time, And Then There Were None, continues to tour the UK in 2024, from Brighton and Cardiff, to Norwich and Birmingham. Find tickets by clicking here.