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And Then There Were None is a 1943 play by crime writer Agatha Christie. The play, like the 1939 book on which it is based, was originally titled and performed in the UK as Ten Little Ni**ers. It was also performed under the name Ten Little Indians.

Background

Christie had been pleased with the book, stating in her autobiography "I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I made of it." The book was very well received upon publication and soon after Christie received a request from Reginald Simpson to be allowed to dramatize it. Christie refused as she relished the challenge herself, although she was intermittently some two years in carrying out the task. She and the producers agreed that audiences might not flock to such a grim tale as told in the original novel and it would not work well dramatically as there would be no one left to tell the tale. She knew the ending would have to be changed as all of the characters die in the book and therefore "I must make two of the characters innocent, to be reunited at the end and come safe out of the ordeal." The original nursery rhyme on which the book was based had an alternative ending of...

"He got married and then there were none"

...which allowed Christie to portray a different conclusion on stage.

Some of the names were also changed with General Macarthur becoming General McKenzie, perhaps due to the real-life General Douglas MacArthur playing a prominent role in the ongoing World War II.

After the play had been written, most people she discussed it with considered it impossible to produce. She received some encouragement from Charles Cochrane but he was unable to find financial backers. Finally, Bertie Mayer who had produced the 1928 play Alibi agreed to stage it.

After a try-out at the Wimbledon Theatre starting on September 20, 1943, the play opened in the West End at the St James's Theatre on November 17. It gained good reviews and ran for 260 performances until February 24, 1944 when the theatre was bombed. It then transferred to the Cambridge Theatre opening on February 29 and running at that venue until May 6. It then transferred back to the restored St James' on May 9 and finally closed on July 1.

Although she didn't feel it to be her best play, Christie did declare it was her best piece of "craftsmanship". She also considered it to be the play which formally started her career as a playwright, despite the success of Black Coffee in 1930.

Scenes

The scene of the play is the living-room of the house on Indian Island (Note: Ni**er Island in the 1943 UK production), off the coast of Devon. The time - the present.

ACT I

  • An evening in August

ACT II

  • Scene 1 - The following morning
  • Scene 2 - The same day. Afternoon

ACT III

  • Scene 1 - The same day. Evening
  • Scene 2 - The following morning

1944 London production

The play opened in the St James's Theatre. It ran for 260 performances, but was interrupted when a bomb severely damaged the theatre in February 1944. The production moved temporarily to the Cambridge Theatre, returning in May to complete its run. The play was directed by Irene Hentschel, with decor by Clifford Pember.

Cast

  • William Murray played Rogers
  • Reginald Barlow played Narracott
  • Hilda Bruce-Potter played Mrs Rogers
  • Linden Travers played Vera Claythorne
  • Terence de Marney played Philip Lombard
  • Michael Blake played Anthony Marston
  • Percy Walsh played William Blore
  • Eric Cowley played General MacKenzie
  • Henrietta Watson played Emily Brent
  • Allan Jeayes played Sir Lawrence Wargarve
  • Gwyn Nicholls played Dr Armstrong

Reception of London production

Ivor Brown reviewed the play in The Observer's issue of November 21, 1943 when he said, "Miss Agatha Christie does not stint things. Like Hotspur, who could kill six dozen Scots at breakfast, complain of his quiet life, and then ask for work, she is not one to be concerned about a mere singleton corpse. But she can add quality to quantity in her domestic morgue. In Ten Little Ni**ers she shows an intense ingenuity in adapting that very lethal rhyme (so oddly deemed a nursery matter) to modern conditions." Mr. Brown concluded that Henrietta Watson's portrayal of Emily Brent was, "the most authentic member of a house party with 'no future in it.' as the airmen say. That gently lugubrious phrase certainly does not hold of the play."

1944 Broadway production

A production in New York opened at the Broadhurst Theatre under the title Ten Little Indians on June 27, 1944. On January 6, 1945, it transferred to the Plymouth Theatre where it ran from January 9 until June 30, 1945. The total run on Broadway was 426 performances. The play was directed by Albert de Courville.

Cast

  • Neil Fitzgerald as Rogers
  • Georgia Harvey as Mrs. Rogers
  • Halliwell Hobbes as Sir Lawrence Wargrave
  • Nicholas Joy as General MacKenzie
  • Anthony Kemble Cooper as Anthony Marston
  • Claudia Morgan as Vera Claythorne
  • Patrick O'Connor as Fred Narracott
  • James Patrick O'Malley as William Blore
  • Michael Whalen as Philip Lombard
  • Estelle Winwood as Emily Brent
  • Harry Worth as Dr. Armstrong

1952 production

The play was performed at the Theatre Royal, Bath and was directed by T G Fenwick.

Cast

  • Edwin Broom
  • Russell Carr
  • Edward Cast
  • Jeanette Clive
  • Moya Fenwick
  • T G Fenwick
  • Colin Kent
  • John Mylius
  • David Poulson
  • Alec Ross
  • Naomi Waters

1987 Nottingham Playhouse production

The play was performed at the Nottingham Playhouse from September 2nd 1987. On September 29th 1987 the play was transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in London, where it was performed until June 4th 1988. The play was directed by Kenneth Alan Taylor.[1]

1987 cast

  • Michael Remick as Anthony Marston
  • Jack Hedley as Dr Armstrong
  • Miriam Karlin as Emily Brent
  • Geoffrey Toone as General Mackenzie
  • Maryann Turner as Mrs Rogers
  • John Channell Mills as Narracot
  • Geoffrey Davies as Philip Lombard
  • James Tomlinson as Rogers
  • John Fraser as Sir Lawrence Wargrave
  • Koo Stark as Vera Claybourne
  • Rodney Bewes as William Blore

At some point during the production, actress Glynis Barber performed in the production.[2]

1988 Theatre Royal, Bath, production

The play was performed at the Theatre Royal, Bath in 1988 and 1989. The play was directed by Salvin Stewart.[3]

1988 cast

  • David Thorpe as Anthony Marston
  • Lewis Jones as Dr Armstrong
  • Judy Wilson as Emily Brent
  • Geoffrey Toone as General MacKenzie
  • Joyce Fenby as Mrs Rogers
  • John Channell Mills as Narracot
  • Geoffrey Davies as Philip Lombard
  • James Warwick as Philip Lombard
  • Paul Ratcliffe as Rogers
  • Michael Wisher as Sir Lawrence Wargrave
  • Heather James as Vera Claythorne
  • Douglas Fielding as William Blore

2008 Agatha Christie Theatre Company production

The play was directed by Joe Harmston, and the set designer was Simon Scullion. The production toured Cardiff, Wolverhampton, Blackpool, Aberdeen, Eastbourne, Nottingham and Glasgow.

2008 cast

2015 Agatha Christie Theatre Company production

The play was directed by Joe Harmston, and the set designer was Simon Scullion.

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Cast

  • Paul Nicholas as Sir Lawrence Wargrave
  • Colin Buchanan as William Henry Blore
  • Susan Penhaligon as Emily Brent
  • Mark Curry as Dr Armstrong
  • Frazer Hines as Rogers
  • Ben Nealon as Philip Lombard
  • Verity Rushward as Vera Claythorne
  • Eric Carte as General Mackenzie
  • Judith Rae as Mrs Rogers
  • Paul Hassall as Anthony Marston

Publication and further adaptations

The play was first published by Samuel French Ltd. as a paperback in 1944. It was first published in hardback in The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1993 (ISBN 0-39-607631-9) and in the UK by HarperCollins in 1993 (ISBN 0-00-224344-X).

At some point after the end of the Second World War, a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp contacted Christie and told her that the inmates had staged their own production there, undoubtedly writing their own script as they would not have had access to the Christie version. Christie was told that they found that it had "sustained them".

In November 2007, Lakota East High School in West Chester, OH, was set to perform the play but plans were canceled after the NAACPprotested about the production because of the original title of the novel. Lakota East High School officials subsequently revised their plans and decided to perform the play on the 29th November.

References

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