Wednesday, November 5, 2014

3 December - And Then There Were None

On 5 November we read the rather moving Journey's End, which gives the reader/audience a taste of the horrors of the trenches in WW1.  It was rather a long play, but one which would have been impossible to cut because no scene is 'wasted': each dialogue gives so much information about the characters in the piece, their lives, their fears and their hopes.

Next month will be much jollier!  And not just because I'll have some wine mulling for the 'interval'!

We will read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: it is reputed to be one of her finest works, but although she thought it finely crafted Christie herself did not think so.

It is Christie's best-selling novel with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best selling books of all time. 

The play opened in 1943 under the title of the book: Ten Little Niggers, but when it opened in New York the following year the title was changed to Ten Little Indians.  The original title was a reference to a song on which the piece was based:

Ten little nigger boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little nigger boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little nigger boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little nigger boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little nigger boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little nigger boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Four little nigger boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little nigger boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little nigger boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little nigger boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were None.

This isn't going to spoil the story for you, because although the song is referred to in the play, the text was later adapted to reflect the song more accurately for film - but this isn't how the play we will be reading ends!

The play was adapted into a film in 1945, 1963 and again in 1974

And Then There Were None (1945).jpg                                              And Then There Were None FilmPoster.jpeg

There is a new adaptation to be screened by the BBC next year: I hope this won't spoil it for you!

I would urge you NOT to go to wikiepedia, and to try to stop you from doing so, here's a summary of the characters.  Each has been summoned to an island from which they cannot escape (no boat, and the boatman has been paid not to answer distress signals), each is a murderer .. and then they mysteriously begin to die, one by one ...

The Cast In No Particular Order:

Anthony James Marston killed two young children (John and Lucy Combes) while driving recklessly, for which he felt no real remorse nor did he accept any personal responsibility, complaining only that his driving license had been suspended as a result.

Mrs Ethel Rogers, the cook/housekeeper and Thomas Rogers' wife, described as pale and ghostlike woman with shifty light eyes. She was dominated by her bullying husband, who withheld the medicine of their former employer (an elderly spinster, Miss Jennifer Brady) to collect an inheritance they knew she had left them in her will. Mrs Rogers was haunted by the crime for the rest of her life

General Mackenzie  a retired World War I war hero, who sent his late wife's lover (a younger officer, Arthur Richmond) to his death by assigning him to a mission where it was practically guaranteed he would not survive. Leslie Macarthur had mistakenly put the wrong letters in the envelopes on one occasion when she wrote to both men at the same time.

Rogers, the butler and Ethel Rogers' husband. He dominated his weak-willed wife and they killed their former elderly employer by withholding her medicine, causing the woman to die from heart failure and inheriting the money she bequeathed them in her will.
Emily Caroline Brent, a rigid, repressed elderly spinster holding harsh moralistic principles. She accepted the vacation on Soldier Island largely due to financial constraints. Years earlier, she had dismissed her young maid, Beatrice Taylor, for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Beatrice, who had already been rejected by her parents for the same reason, drowned herself in a river, which Miss Brent considered an even worse sin.
Dr Edward George Armstrong, a Harley Street doctor, responsible for the death of a patient, Louisa Mary Clees, after he operated on her while drunk, many years earlier.

William Henry Blore, a retired police inspector and now a private investigator, accused of falsifying his testimony in court for a bribe from a criminal gang too dangerous to double-cross, which resulted in an innocent man, James Landor, being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Landor died in prison. Blore arrives using the alias "Davis" and claiming to have arrived from South Africa, as he was instructed to do by Isaac Morris, who hired him for "security" work, but is confronted about his true name which was revealed on the gramophone recording, and he acknowledges his true identity
Philip Lombard, a soldier of fortune. Literally down to his last square meal, he comes to the island with a loaded revolver, as suggested by Isaac Morris. Lombard is accused of causing the deaths of a number of East African tribesmen, after stealing their food and leaving them to starve.
Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, a cool, efficient, resourceful former teacher and governess, who has taken mostly secretarial jobs since her last job as a governess ended in the death of her charge, Cyril Hamilton, whom she intentionally allowed to swim out to sea – as the child had wanted to do but had theretofore been denied as too dangerous – and drown. She did this so her lover, Cyril's uncle Hugo Hamilton, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her, which had been their original plan before Cyril's birth changed things. She swam out to sea to "save" Cyril to make it seem he had disobeyed her – as she had consistently told him it was too dangerous – but knowing she would not arrive in time. Hugo, however, who loved his nephew, abandoned her after he somehow realised what she had done.
Justice Lawrence John Wargrave, a retired judge, known as a "hanging judge" for liberally awarding the death penalty in different murder cases, and is accused of judicial murder as a result of giving biased summation and jury directions leading to a hanging which was widely believed at the time to be a deliberate miscarriage of justice on his part.


There are 10 characters, and if we happen to be just 10 then we'll pick names out of a hat for parts to read!

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