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Agatha Christie’s, “And Then There were None”

Murder by death


Orange Sky Production’s “And then there were none”

Orange Sky Productions’ presentation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None was a fair recreation of the thrills and humour of the original

In 1939, when Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” was first published, it created a storm in the literary circles with Isaac Anderson of The New York Times calling it “the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written.” The book, which has sold more than 100 million, tells the story of ten strangers with murky pasts invited to an island by Mr. Owen.

Once they reach the island, they realise that none of them have met their absent host. One by one the guests are murdered and in an atmosphere wrought with suspense and suspicion, the survivors try to find out the killer among them. The killings are carried out according to the nursery rhyme, “Ten Little Indians.”

The book was adapted for stage and film. The first stage adaptation was by Christie herself in 1943 and she reworked the ending as she and the producers felt that the original ending was too grim. Most movie adaptations have also followed the play’s ending. Rene Clair’s 1945 black-and-white film adaptation recreated the look and feel of the novel, while George Pollock’s 1965 adaptation shifted the location from an island to a remote mountain retreat. Bollywood adapted the novel into the successful “Gumnaam.”

Orange Sky Productions presentation of the play is Indianised (by Reshma Tonse) but faithfully follows the plot. So for someone who is familiar with the book, there are no surprises. The fun then is in seeing how cleverly it is put in the Indian context. Most of it worked thanks to our shared colonial history. The butler and his wife from the original found their counterparts in Ashwini and Ramesh Kumar, Dr. Armstrong was Dr. Satyanarayan, judge Wargrave was Vishwanath Dutt, General MacArthur morphed into General Malik and Eesha Bhattacharjee was spot on as the prudish Emily Brent.

The adventurer Lombard was Lamba, the beautiful Vera Claythorne became Veda while Blore found his echo in Bhatnagar. Indian island was replaced by Paradise Island but the Ten Little Indians were serendipitously retained. Whether the Indians were Red Indians like in the original or east Indians like us was not addressed.

Atmosphere plays an important role in the book with the suspense ratcheted to unbearable levels. The play, however, did not build on the sense of isolation and suspicion. Most of the action happens off stage and the single drawing room set did not contribute to the ambience. Sound was also not used effectively to add to feeling of seclusion and suspense.

As far as acting goes, Rajeev Gupta excelled as the sardonic Inspector Bhatnagar as did Krishna Shetty as Eesha. Vijay S. Aiyar as Alok Lamba had all the good lines and delivered them with suitable panache. There was some forgetting of lines, which struck a jarring note.

The production, with its brisk pace and humour was an entertaining enough way of spending an evening.

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