Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries often rend the fabric of perceived morality; changing perceptions as they unfold. This story, ‘And Then There Were None’, which pulls together 10 people only to accuse them of a character flaw so vile – a blood lust – that it creates enemies of virtual strangers in a heartbeat, is typical of the late British writer.
This week, the play gets a new telling, at The Junction from October 17-19, and promises just as much of a moral quandary. After all, if you believe the voice of introduction that accuses the players of murder, can you really feel it’s unjustified if someone dispenses death?
It’s the idea of vigilante justice – the visitors are being killed off one by one – do you stand for it or against it?
Director Roli Agarwal says: “The play’s underlying theme is the idea of taking ‘justice’ into our own hands and the ethical dilemmas that come with it… it’s relevant to human nature. Times change, but human nature doesn’t.”
The story was originally published in 1939, and while there have been mutations, this telling doesn’t make such a claim.
“We’ve been very faithful to the original and tried to keep it as authentic and sincere as possible, right from the story and setting to the costumes, sets, props and all. In a time where we see a lot of ‘modern adaptations’ and contemporary takes of popular plays, we figured, why not take audiences back in time and immerse them in a different era from the one they live in. I think that’s half the magic of the play – allowing you to experience an exciting event (albeit fictional) from 80 years ago,” says Agarwal.
For the actors, playing roles so fleshed out came with a challenging caveat: They were also nuanced. Muf Goulamhoussen , who plays Philip Lombard, explains: “The play involves a lot of strong diverse characters meeting for the first time. Understanding and developing your character's relationship and dynamics with each of the other members was certainly challenging, given there is relatively limited time at the beginning to set the scene and establish the chemistry for the audience.”
“With Captain Lombard specifically, he is a complex character, where on the surface he puts up a suave, calm and collected guard but as an ex-military man, you know he has seen some things no one else has, and experienced difficult moral dilemmas. There is also a vulnerability about him, specifically towards women. Trying to encapsulate all of this was definitely a great challenge,” he adds.
For Silvia Valentino, who plays Mrs. Rogers, it was a question of finding the reasons behind her character’s actions. “After reading the part, I had to make sure to find justification for all her movements on stage and also to know where she was coming from in her reactions. Mrs. Rogers is probably diametrically different to me as a person, so I had to recall situations in which I had similar experiences reaction-wise. Once I found that, it became easier to portray the reactions in Mrs. Rogers' way,” she explains.
As in all of Christie’s work – things are not as bland as they seem on the surface; the fibre of belief is stretched and twisted, the human condition morphs, first into the unidentifiable and then into something so familiar that it leaves you astounded.
Don't miss it!
Tickets to 'And Then There Were None', which runs at The Junction from October 17-19, are Dh100.