The world’s longest-running play The Mousetrap, now in its 53rd year, will soon be joined in the West End by another classic Agatha Christie thriller. And Then There Were None, previously titled “Ten Little Indians” and first seen on stage in 1943, will be revived this October (exact dates and a venue have yet to be announced), as part of a major initiative to re-popularise Christie for the 21st century.

Ten strangers, with apparently nothing in common, are lured to an exclusive island mansion by the mysterious UN Owen. Over dinner, a voice on a gramophone record accuses each guest of hiding a guilty and terrible secret. That evening, one of the party is found murdered and the tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them, but is preparing to strike again... and again...

For this new adaptation, which will be directed by Chichester Festival joint artistic director Steven Pimlott, playwright Kevin Elyot (Forty Winks, My Night with Reg) has drawn exclusively from the original 1939 novel rather than Christie’s own stage version or subsequent screen versions.

Over the past five years, Chorion, which owns the rights to the Agatha Christie estate, has been successfully relaunching the author’s Marple and Poirot works in print and on television, bringing in new playwrights to reinterpret the stories for a modern audience. This new stage version of And Then There Were None is the first in a similar reassessment of Christie’s theatrical works. It follows a four-year moratorium on any stage productions – not including The Mousetrap, which is not part of Chorion’s ownership portfolio - while the new work was developed.

Commenting on the initiative, Christie’s grandson (and chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd), Mathew Prichard, said: “If Agatha Christie is to be as popular in the 21st century as she was in the 20th, we have to be open-minded about interpreting stories in modern ways (much as Shakespeare is reinvented for successive generations).”

Nearly 30 years after her death in 1976, Agatha Christie remains the world’s most popular novelists. With total sales of 2 billion books to date, the ‘Queen of Crime’ is outranked only by Shakespeare and the Bible. In total, she wrote 80 novels (an average of two every year for most of her life) and short story collections as well as 19 plays, six romance novels (under the name of Mary Westmacott), two books of poetry, a children's book, and two autobiographical works.

And Then There Were None remains her best-selling individual title in the UK. The new stage version will be presented in the West End by Act Productions.

- by Terri Paddock