AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie
Ajax Community Theatre
Producer: Sarah-Liis Salonius, Director: Kate Arms
April 28, 29 and 30 at 8:00 pm and April 24 at 2:00 pm
t the St. Francis Centre, 78 Church Street South in Ajax
Note: If you haven’t seen the play, I promise not to ruin its conclusion for potential audience members. If you have seen the play or read the book, let’s not spoil it for others.
In a recent commentary, I mentioned that one smart marketing ploy to conclude a community theatre season is to stage an uproarious farce that will keep audiences coming back for more. Another technique is to stage ‘who dun it’ murder mysteries. The crime of murder is horrendous on any account no matter what, yet its genre has always remained a staple moneymaker for community theatre. During World War 2, audiences in London’s West End liked to attend murder mysteries as they were able to forget about the atrocities of World War 2 that enveloped their country even if for a few hours. For its final production this year, ACT tackles one of Agatha Christie’s most intricate murder mystery scripts ‘And Then There Were None’ at the beautiful St. Francis Centre on Church Street in Ajax.
‘And Then’ has had some interesting historical developments over the years when it transferred from the West End to North America. Miss Christie was unhappy with some of the adaptations of her novels to live drama; therefore, she had tackled writing this script herself. This is the third title of the play as the first two were considered inappropriate and possibly racist from a North American standpoint. If you have already read ‘And Then There Were None’, you will be aware of some slight alterations and changes for the stage adaptation.
In her Director’s Note, Kate Arms chose to present the play as a product of its time even with some of the dated attitudes about race and gender of the 1930s. She has worked diligently to ensure distinct personalities exist, and this cast convincingly maintains their various idiosyncrasies, oddities and hidden suspicions as they are slowly bumped off one by one. There is the law-abiding judge (Mark Salonius), the conflicted and hurting damsel (Chelsea Jones), the wise guy cop (Peter Bou-Ghannam), the stuffy general (Daniel Wyse), the unhappy spinster (Eren Barnett), the carefree playboy (Matthew Hyslop), the man of bravado (Craig Estrella), the ‘so-called’ medical professional(Paul Love), the odd servants (Todd Bowles and Sarah-Liis Salonius) and the quiet ‘skipper’ (Dillon Hunter) who ferries the guests to Soldier Island. Ms. Arms and the cast will know and sense the audience has had a good time in deciphering ‘who dun it’ when they hear gasps from the audience (as I did opening night) when the killer is finally revealed.
Recently, an ACT-CO adjudicator told me that depending on the context and actors available, a director may forego any use of accents if there is a concern they might not work. ‘And Then’ requires believable accents if the audience is to buy the fact it has been transported to another world. For the most part, the actors admirably sustain and maintain the natural cadence of the speech in this nearly three-hour story length. A slight quibble, however, as it might have been some opening night jitters. I like to sit in the back row of any live theatre to listen carefully if I can hear the words. As performances continue, I’m certain the actors will continue to work on their enunciation and pronunciation. Since this play has an intricate plot, it is important to hear every word of the spoken dialogue.
A tremendous amount of work of many selfless individuals goes on behind the scenes of any community theatre production, and this production benefits from their dedication and commitment. The intimate stage and set of the living room of the house on Soldier Island lends itself nicely to the growing sense of claustrophobia as the story progresses. A variety of stylized 1930s pre-show and intermission music sets the year for us, and many of the audience were smiling as they listened to this big band sound. A good number of the costumes evoke the colours and fabrics of the period.
‘And Then There Were None’ tickets may be purchased at the door or call (289) 892-4132. For further information, visit their website.