Agatha Christie’s classic thriller And Then There Were None is now confirmed for the West End’s Gielgud Theatre in October (See News, 13 May 2005). Kevin Elyot’s bloody new version, with an ensemble cast including Gemma Jones and Tara Fitzgerald (See The Goss, 16 May 2005), will open on 25 October 2005 (previews from 14 October).

And Then There Were None (previously titled Ten Little Indians) revolves around ten strangers, with apparently nothing in common, who 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, directed by Chichester Festival joint artistic director Steven Pimlott, Elyot (Forty Winks, My Night with Reg) has drawn exclusively from the original 1939 novel rather than Christie’s own 1943 stage version or subsequent screen versions. As part of a major initiative to re-popularise Christie for the 21st century, the piece is being updated with an eye to satisfying the expectations of younger audiences accustomed to more graphic horror on screen.

Gemma Jones, who plays Emily Brent, has been seen on screen in Wilde, Sense and Sensibility, The Winslow Boy with recurring roles in the Bridget Jones and Harry Potter films. On stage, her credits include Cabaret, The Winter’s Tale, The Master Builder, Dance of Death, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (for which she won a Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress) and, earlier this year at the Gate Theatre, Tejas Verdes.

Tara Fitzgerald, who plays Vera Claythorne, is well known for her screen roles in Brassed Off, I Capture the Castle, The Camomile Lawn, Sirens, Hear My Song and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Her stage credits include Antigone, Our Song, Hamlet (opposite Ralph Fiennes), A Doll's House and Clouds. Also now confirmed for the cast is Richard Johnson (Mrs Warren’s Profession, Tales from Hollywood, Plenty) as Justice Wargrave and Graham Crowden (Richard II, The Magistrate, TV’s Waiting for God) General Macarthur.

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 ultimate stage longrunner, now in its 53rd year in the West End, 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).”

Currently at the Gielgud, the premiere production of Neil LaBute’s Some Girls, starring FriendsDavid Schwimmer, is due to finish its limited season on 13 August 2005. And Then There Were None is presented in the West End by Act Productions.

- by Terri Paddock