Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

false alarm

False alarm: Dr Armstrong (Richard Woodward) gives Mrs Rodgers (Kathryn Fisher) a glass of brandy after she fainted, with standing watching Emily Brent (Sheila Parkes), left, Rogers (Roger Warren), Sir Laurence Wargrave (Jon Richardson) and Anthony Marston (Steve Brear). Mrs Rogers survived . . . at least she did for a while . . . Pictures: Daniel Beaton

And then there were none

Hall Green Little Theatre


This is not so much a whodunit as whodunem as Agatha Christie moves into serial killer mode with a body count to rival a complete Midsomer Murders season.

The play is based on Christie’s 1939 novel, which she revisited as a play in 1943 and it has all the Christie hallmarks of strangers becoming trapped by circumstance in a country house where murder is the main course on the menu.

In this case the country house is on Soldier Island, a mile or so off the Devon coast, a luxury pile but with no telephone and no boat or means of communicating with the outside world, relying instead on Fred’s daily boat from the mainland bringing bread, milk and the papers.

Newly arrived on the island are the butler Rogers (Roger Warren) and his wife, the cook, (Kathryn Fisher) who have never met the owners, Mrs and Mrs Owen, but were employed through an agency and came to the island a few days ago. They are joined by Vera Claythorn (Jo Walker) employed, again through an agency, as Mrs Owen’s secretary.

She arrives with the first of seven guests invited to the island, Captain Philip Lombard (Al McCoughey) who sees life as a big adventure, a game. Then there are the rest. There is Emily Brent (Sheila Parkes), a morality zealot who sees herself as sort of God’s enforcer; playboy, lothario, sports car enthusiast and amoral cad Anthony Marston (Steve Brear) and dour, non-drinking, not much talking Dr Armstrong (Richard Woodward).

Bloor and the judge, Sir Laurence review the situation

Then there are the older guests with General Mackenzie (Andrew Cooley) a WWI veteran with a guilty secret and the hanging judge Sir Laurence Wargrave (Jon Richardson) who seems to have seen juries as an inconvenience to his own prejudices.

It was unfortunate that the actor playing the general was indisposed and so stage manager Cooley, whose only scheduled Thespian contribution was to have been Fred the boatman in a few stage setting moments in the briefest of scenes at the start, found himself playing the general, book discretely in hand, and making a decent fist of a difficult situation.

The final guest was William Bloor, (Steve Fisher) who arrived as a South African millionaire with cheap underpants . . . don’t ask. Here was a man with more secrets than most.

The only thing the 10 had in common was the fact they were there because of employment, in three cases, and invitation, in seven, by a couple none of them had met, and who were not on the island, having been . . . delayed.

The strangers come down for dinner and Rogers, upon instructions from Mr Owen, puts on the gramophone. He is expecting a little music to play only to find a sinister voice announcing dramatic revelations about each of the assembled staff and guests which sets in train a killing spree of second hand revenge.

It brings into play the faded poem on the wall above the fireplace, Ten little soldier boys, with ten soldier statues on the mantlepiece below – the ten little soldier boys poem ends with and then there were none . . . ten little statues . . . ten guests . . .


With the generator failing candles add an extra layer of anxiety to Bloor and the rest of the surviving soldiers

It doesn’t take a genius to work out where this is heading, let’s just say the cast gets a bit smaller one by one and the guessing game for the audience is to work out who or what is playing the part of the grim reaper, the one working to the deadly timetable of departures chronicled in the children’s poem . . .

When Fred's boat fails to arrive the next day, probably on the orders of the mysterious Owens', escape is impossible and the promised house party has become a game of survival.

Director Louise Price keeps the tension slowly building to the dramatic finale. The start is low key, the arrival of guests and their back stories mildly interesting as we learn a little about them, the adventure seeking Captain trying to chat up Vera, with the completely amoral Marston, who seems to follow hedonism as a religion, taking the simpler line of lust and trying it on.

There is the matter of fact, always right judge, the reticent keep himself to himself doc and the quiet general who misses his wife . . . all seemingly fairly ordinary, typical sorts from the upper half of the English class system, although, to be fair, there might be some doubts about Bloor.

All of them had arrived on strange invitations which, to be honest, in most cases normal people would have dismissed or at the very least have asked for more information. But this was 1939 and Agatha Christie, so along they came like lambs to the . . . not be best choice of phrase there, but you get the idea.

Clues are hard to find amid all the diversions chucked in to put you off the scent so that all you can say with any degree of confidence as that any of the cast who is now dead is probably not the killer and the one with the axe in the head can be ruled out completely . . . possibly.

If you have never seen this particular Christie murder mystery then it has plenty to go at in the guessing stakes, with a few laughs, here and there, to lighten the tension. Any discussion at the interval must be  a bit like picking a Grand National winner with a pin.

As we emerge from the covid hibernation this is a welcome return to theatre at Hall Green with a tried and tested Christie play which has stood the challenge of time well, far better than some. The book, incidentally, is the world’s best selling mystery novel with more than 100 million copies sold and is the sixth best selling book of any type or language of all time.

There is enough to get your teeth into, deaths a plenty and enough paths and dead ends to follow to keep you guessing to the final moments when you discover, to your surprise, that the killer is . . . .you can find out to 12-03-22

Roger Clarke


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