When it comes to the sheer bloody horror of human slaughter, Quentin Tarantino could learn a thing or two from dear old Dame Agatha Christie.
Forget the genteel cheesiness of that West End mystery antique, The Mousetrap. And Then There Were None must be her only thriller in which all the characters get bumped off before the final curtain. Ranging from a conventional poisoning to the rather grisly use of a lethal-looking axe, murder most foul is committed no less than ten times in this cleverly updated stage version of her 1938 novel, Ten Little Indians.
So who has it in for the odd collection of guests invited by Mr Owen to spend a weekend mini-break in a swanky Art Deco house on an exclusive remote island? It might well be the dodgy comic butler, Rogers (John Ramm), who seems to time his entrances to coincide with mighty crashes of thunder overhead. Or is it edgy Dr Armstrong (Richard Clothier), always ready to help with his bag of pills and potions? Then there’s retired soldier General Macarthur (Graham Crowden) and nervy young ex-schoolmistress, Vera Claythorne (Tara Fitzgerald) … One by one, the guests' guilty secrets are brought to book, including Richard Johnson’s hanging judge and Sam Crane’s flirty thirties It-boy, whose death scene gets a well-deserved round of applause after he ejects a stomach-full of vomit on the coffee table.
Hmmm… Smells like a bunch of red herrings way past their sell-by date to me. And I must admit that most whodunits usually leave me wondering why I bothered. But although it’s not easy to work out where Ms Christie’s original stilted dialogue ends and Kevin Elyot’s sexy and compelling new adaptation begins, the plot definitely thickens most enjoyably in Steven Pimlott’s classy, dark-edged production, which always steers the actors onto the right side of camp, makes effective use of lighting and suspenseful soundtracks by Jason Carr, and yet still manages to include everything you look for in a Christie thriller - apart from Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot.
Ironically, it is enormous fun watching her ten little soldier boys getting their comeuppance. Old-fashioned hokum it may be, but by the end, this makeover mystery with a moral twist leaves you feeling that the Queen of Crime has, in her own understated way, gunned down an entire class of decadent Brits.