“Ten little soldier boys going out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.” Thus begins the nursery rhyme that sets Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None into motion. Set on an island in pre-WWII England, the story brings together a group of people who all have secrets to hide, and a murderer among them. The Loft Theatre’s production presents the murder mystery in a captivating manner.
Although certain design elements could be better employed in the storytelling, it is difficult to resist being drawn in as the performance progresses. As the curtain rises, the audience is faced with a richly furnished living room in which the subsequent terror will unfold. On one side of the stage stand ten toy soldiers, which, like the characters, will disappear one by one throughout the play.
Despite the large number of characters, each one soon becomes recognisable thanks to the idiosyncrasies the actors endow to them.
What immediately struck me was the cast’s brisk ensemble work. With ten actors, the action has the potential to become sluggish or difficult to follow; however, the actors interact with each other smoothly to create a lively give-and-take, which sets a good pace for the rest of the performance. Despite the large number of characters, each one soon becomes recognisable thanks to the idiosyncrasies the actors endow to them, whether it’s a sprightly walk or a way of delivering lines.
While these create an engaging performance, the mood is not always as well maintained. I hoped to be at the edge of my seat by the first murder, not to mention by the end of the play. However, the show does not quite succeed in mustering the tense atmosphere expected of a murder mystery.
Although it takes time to build up, the anticipation does intensify throughout the performance.
On the one hand, certain parts of the production work well to create suspense: abrupt blackouts and a play with shadows create an eerie effect and are very befitting to the story. There is, however, a lack of cohesion between certain design elements. The sound effects are not used to their full potential, being employed mainly between scenes, and they do not appear as seamlessly integrated into the production as the other elements.
These, however, are not as significant when considering the show overall. Although it takes time to build up, the anticipation does intensify throughout the performance, especially as the toy soldiers mysteriously disappear one at a time (along with their human counterparts). Even though details of the story could be more subtly conveyed through other production elements, the performance did hold my attention from start to finish. It presents an entertaining and captivating production thanks to a talented cast that pulls off the murder mystery with a flourish.