Review by Danny Gaisin
10% of a gigabyte! That’s how many printings Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” mystery has earned. Eight decades later, W.E.S.T. can still attract an audience to see this ultimate who-dunnit. Choosing Paul Groulx to cast and direct this iconic play was a stroke of brilliance based on his record of artistic flexibility and a loose rein on his talented thespians. We know, the play; are familiar with the characters; conversant with the various adaptations; and even know who done it!
To still enjoy it without dozing off says much about WEST, the team and the director.
The plot; based on a nineteenth century Irish nursery rhyme, deals with eight diverse guests invited to a mansion on a remote island. Each has an individual invitation that gives rationality for attending, even though none of the invitees can quite recall any knowledge of the inviter. No host present, only a staff of two; who also admit not having had a face-to-face meeting with their new employer. A storm, non-returning ferryboat, and a recorded warning of individual doom let the ten characters to contemplate their demises and try to figure out who their nemesis might be.
Christie’s tales notoriously fail to telegraph the culprits. Her ironic justifications and logical denouements are only outdone by her paradoxes and so-called ‘red herring’ misdirection. ‘And Then There Were none’ stereotypes all of the above with the added bonus that in many versions, a post-mortem act must be added for a dying confession to be read. Groulx not only has contemporized the time-frame, but also takes the alternative “Two little Injuns foolin’ with a gun, One shot t’other and then there was one. One little Injun livin’ all alone, he got married and then there were none” finale. Thus the audience can go home feeling less drained…like with version II of “Close Encounters of the 3rd kind”.
The cast portray both the staff members; a judge; soldier; actor; religious fanatic; general; doctor; policeman and secretary. All carry emotional & malevolent behavior baggage. There is not a single weak representation and even the deliberately overly-executed [pun intended] dialect contributes to the suspense. In this iteration, I was surprisingly taken with three particularly identifiable depictions. Young Marston is the spoiled Bieber-ish type that is played by Sam Wells. He looks; manifests and projects his character to perfection. The secretary IS Amanda McPherson and she can take my dictation anytime (Terry permitting!!!). Finally, Randy Smye’s General has so many little enhancement mannerisms plus uncanny phrasing & timing as to appear totally natural in his role.
The costumes are perfect; the lighting and sound is effectively contributory and the set, while somewhat pedestrian, does express the venue. ‘And Then There Were None” will be at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts until February 15th. Even if you’re familiar with the play, it’s cool to see it so well implemented.
Hint: “Col. Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick!”