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And Then There Were None

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
3 stars
How would Agatha Christie have fared in the DNA age? Not, one suspects, very well. Which is why, despite much of her canon crying out for some post-modern deconstruction, her work is protected in a manner only Samuel Beckett has inspired. The reinstatement of a downbeat ending worthy of Sarah Kane in this starry production by director Joe Harmston’s Agatha Christie Company, then, is an eyebrow-raisingly welcome piece of revisionism. This despite the airbrushing out of the original, politically incorrect title of the novel from which Christie adapted her stage version.

Eight archetypes land on an obscure Devon island in a house whose deco wood panelling and giant porthole front entrance suggests a plush prototype for Butlin’s. With the butler and his missus completing the set of crusty old buffers and bright young things from the professional classes, each party is forced to face up to past misdemeanours before being poetically dispatched.

Trouble is, beyond Christie’s quietly fanatical fan-base, even a novice will spot that the more TV friendly the cast, the less likely they are to come a cropper. So you just know that Gerald Harper’s judge, Alex Ferns’s hammy soldier and a fragrant Chloe Newsome are going to make it more or less to the curtain call.

The programme notes evoke everything from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clois to Big Brother as the offspring of And Then There Were None, and the storm that opens Act Two does suggest Nietzschian epiphanies are imminent. It’s Christie’s merciless exposure of the guilt that lies beyond the veneer of respectability, however, that causes you rub your hands with glee at her characters fate.

The Herald, June 25th 2008

ends

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