1939. Europe teeters on the brink of war. Eight strangers receive an intriguing invitation to a posh house party on Soldier Island, an isolated rock near the Devon coast.
These house guests are to be met by the butler and his housekeeper wife…And Then There Were Ten, but not for long.
So begins Agartha Christie’s groundbreaking whodunit And Then There Were None, to be staged by York company Pick Me Up Theatre under Andrew Isherwood’s direction at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from September 22 to 30.
What the guests have in common is a wicked past that they are unwilling to reveal and a secret destined to seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. As the weather turns, the bloodbath begins and one by one they are brutally murdered in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme.
“Cut off from the mainland, they are each accused of a terrible crime. When one of the party dies suddenly, they realise they may be harbouring a murderer among their number,” says producer Robert Readman. “The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but also is preparing to strike again… and again.”
Director Isherwood will be among Pick Me Up’s “fabulous cast of the county’s finest”, playing William Blore alongside Flo Poskitt’s Vera Claythorne; Mike Hickman’s Philip Lombard; Rory Mulvihill’s Sir Lawrence Wargrave; husband and wife Martyn and Jeannette Hunter’s butler Rogers and housekeeper wife Mrs Rogers; Andrew Roberts’s Anthony Marston; Ian Giles’s General John MacKenzie; Mark Simmonds’s Dr Edward Armstrong and Jess Murray’s Emily Brent.
Pick Me Up’s Facebook page is introducing Christie’s “motley characters” one by one in an on-going series. First up: meet Rory Mulvihill’s judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave. “The Judge…you wouldn’t want to cross him,” forewarns Readman’s profile notes.
“Recently retired, he is intelligent, cold and commanding. During his years on the bench, he had a reputation as a ‘hanging judge’ – a judge who persuaded juries to bring back guilty verdicts and sentenced many convicted criminals to death. He should be right at home then.”
Next meet Jeanette Hunter’s Mrs Rogers. “She is the housekeeper in a big posh mansion where eight perfect strangers have been invited to spend the weekend by an unknown host. She is rather timid, has a dominating husband and she tells us she’s ‘always left to do the dirty work’,” says Readman.
“And there’s plenty of it in And Then There Were None but take nothing at face value in this twisty tale of murder and revenge! Jeanette’s character might not be all she seems.”
Step forward dodgy character number three: Jess Murray’s Emily Brent. “She is a ruthlessly religious woman who reads her Bible every day,” says Readman. “She might devour the good book – but her actions are anything but Christian. And she knits – like those ghouls from the guillotine!”
Next up: Mike Hickman’s Philip Lombard. “A mysterious, confident and cunning man, we think he was maybe a mercenary soldier in Africa? Anyway, it looks like Mike Hickman isn’t about to take any prisoners in this role…Could he be the guilty one?” ponders Robert.
Who’s next? “Here comes Thomas Rogers…A respectable and reliable butler. Or is he? Don’t you think he looks a bit shifty? And Martin Hunter plays the part perfectly. Come and find out if he dunnit in Agatha Christie’s corking murder mystery,” says Robert.
How about Ian Giles’s General John Gordon Mackenzie? “He’s an upstanding military man – or is he?” asks Robert. “One of eight seemingly random guests invited to a mysterious house party in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, how could anyone think our Ian Giles could be the one wot dunnit?”
Who is Andrew Roberts playing? “This handsome devil (see below) is Anthony Marston: a rich, swanky guy who likes fast cars and fast living,” says Robert. “He seems to have no conscience but is he a murderer?”
Back in York after an Edinburgh Fringe run in York musical comedy duo Fladam’s children’s show Green Fingers, Flo Poskitt takes the role of former governess Vera Claythorne, who comes to Soldier Island as secretary to fellow guest Mrs Owen.
“Flo’s Vera is clever and capable, but she is also super-nervy and suffers from attacks of hysteria, so don’t cross her off the murderer suspect list just yet,” says Robert.
“Don’t trust him – even though he’s a doctor,” he forewarns of any encounter with Mark Simmonds’s Dr Edward Armstrong. “The other seven guests certainly don’t. In fact Armstrong is high up the suspect list because – well, he knows media stuff, doesn’t he?! He could easily bump someone off (if he wasn’t always yearning after a large glass of scotch).
“So, is Mark Simmonds our man in And Then There Were None? If you’ve read Agatha Crhsistie’s book or seen the films, no spoilers please!”
And now there are ten
INTRODCING retired Inspector William Henry Blore, director Andrew Isherwood ‘s on-stage contribution to And Then There Were None.
“He should know his way around a crime scene and be a dependable chap in a crisis – like the one ten strangers find themselves facing at a weird house party in Christie’s nail-biter,” says Robert. “But really…when the killing starts – is the former policeman your best hope?”
Ten Little Soldiers: the back story of a sinister nursery rhyme
THIS epigraph appears at the start of Agatha Christie’s 1939 murder mystery novel, And Then There Were None, foretelling the ten deaths (spoiler alert!) that will occur on Soldier Island.
Ten Little Soldier Boys went out to Dine, one choked his little self and then there were nine.
Nine Little Soldier Boys stayed up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.
Eight Little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.
Seven Little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.
Six Little Soldier Boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.
Five Little Soldier Boys going through a door; One stubbed his toe and then there were four.
Four Little Soldier Boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.
Three Little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.
Two Little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One Little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none.
Did you know?
THE island and Art Deco hotel of the same name that inspired Agatha Christie to write both And Then There Were None and the Hercule Poirot mystery Evil Under The Sun are for sale at £15 million: namely Burgh Island, off the south Devon coast. The sale includes Christie’s beach house, where she wrote, on the cliff edge.
Pick Me Up Theatre in And Then There Were None, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, September 22 to 30. Performances: 7.30pm, September 22, 23, 26 to 30; 2.30pm, September 23, 24 and 30. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk. Recommended age: eight plus.