Review: “And Then There Were None”, ACE Centre

Dress rehearsal for "And Then There Were None" by The Garrick. Back - Left to right: Kevin Kay, Neil Tranmer, David Kendrick, Ken Entwistle, Nigel Catterall, Terry Atkinson. Front: L-R: Steve Cooke, Andrea Cawley, Val Sparkes, David Pilkington, Kathleen Riley (s).
Dress rehearsal for "And Then There Were None" by The Garrick. Back - Left to right: Kevin Kay, Neil Tranmer, David Kendrick, Ken Entwistle, Nigel Catterall, Terry Atkinson. Front: L-R: Steve Cooke, Andrea Cawley, Val Sparkes, David Pilkington, Kathleen Riley (s).

A classic whodunnit is being played out at the ACE Centre, Nelson, this week.

The Garrick Theatre Group is presenting a riveting murder mystery from the pen of the queen of crime novels Agatha Christie and we have a succession of murders and suspects as the tale unfolds.

“And Then There Were None” opened on Wednesday to a good house in the ACE Centre theatre and the 11-strong cast – 10 of them either murderers or victims – are under the direction of Martin Chadwick who brings all his experience to bear to set the scene for Christie’s 1939 novel – her 27th work of fiction and in many people’s view one of her best.

There is certainly plenty of intrigue and whether an Agatha Christie fan or not you cannot fail to be impressed by the plot which leaves you guessing which of the 10 people trapped on Soldier Island is the murderer.

Each has a tale to tell of a past indiscretion and soon learn that they have all been lured to the island by the mysterious Mr and Mrs Owen who are seeking retribution for their guests’ past crimes. Or are they?

The play has a rather sedentary opening as we are introduced to the characters as they arrive on the island one by one.

And before we know it we are at the interval with just one murder having been committed and no-one expecting the horrors to come.

But as the second half gets underway victims meet a succession of grisly deaths as they begin to topple like 10 little soldiers. Not harmless little toy soldiers, but symbols of fear, because as each soldier on the mantelpiece topples so does another houseguest and the action hots up dramatically. Added to the element of menancing is the verse on the wall about the 10 Little Soldier Boys – with each verse giving an eerie clue to the fate of the next victim.

Producer Martin has kept the whole action in one room of the holiday home on the remote island where all have been lured under various guises and as fear sets in their characters are cleverly unmasked.

The beautiful Vera Claythorne, played by Andrea Cawley, supposedly employed to welcome people to the island; William Henry Bloor (David Kendrick) is he really a South African millionaire? Thomas and Ethel Rogers (Ken Entwistle and Val Sparkes) the butler and housekeeper, what secrets do they hide? The doddery General Mackenzie (Nigel Catterall), still pining for his tragic young wife; embittered Emily Brent (Kathleen Riley), a woman with no conscience? Dr Edward Armstrong (Neil Tranmer) what shameful secret is he hiding? Arrogant, ever confident Philip Lombard (Steve Cooke) - is his past as black as is painted? The learned judge Justice Walgrave (Dave Pilkington)vows to find the killer, but does he bring his own justice to bear? and finally the young aristocrat Anthony Marston (Kevin Kay) who loves fast cars ...and himself. The final character Narracot the boatman (Terry Atkinson) brings the party to the island but never returns to take them home.

Every cast member has done their homework and play out their characters well. Are they an innocent victim or the guilty party – or is it another red herring? – as the writer weaves her intrigue and fear heightens as bodies mount up.

The killer is unmasked as the play reaches its thrilling climax and murder mystery aficianados will love this production which continues until Saturday at 7-30pm nightly. Call 661080 or pay on the door.