It is hard to overstate the enduring popularity of Agatha Christie and her classic 1940 mystery novel, “And Then There Were None.” With more than 100 million copies sold, “And Then There Were None” ranks with “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Hobbit” and “Alice in Wonderland” as the only English-language novels to achieve that sales milestone.
Now, Triad Stage is bringing the theatrical adaptation of “And Then There Were None” to Greensboro. The play officially opens Sept. 14, with preview performances starting Sept. 9. The production starts the 18th season of Triad Stage.
In the novel, Christie introduces a story element that has become popular in mystery fiction. A group of characters is stranded in a location (in this case, a small, remote British island) when a murder is discovered. The characters realize that one of their number has to be the killer, and race to solve the crime before they become the murderer’s next victim.
So why has this concise (less than 300 page) mystery been an enduring classic? Mari Vial-Golden, who plays Vera, a governess who left her past job under less-than-ideal circumstances, has some ideas:
“We like to be scared, and we like to think and solve things on our own,” Vial-Golden said. She said Christie’s story offers more than just thrills. She said the author creates a fascinating cast of characters, and invites the audience to get inside their minds.
“It’s a complex play and novel. We’ve had to make sure we are telling it well enough so that you won’t figure it out,” said Renaldy Smith, a UNC School of the Arts alumnus returning to the Triad to play Philip, a solder of fortune. As with Vera — and all the characters on the island — Philip’s troubling past makes him a logical suspect to be the killer. Part of Christie’s genius in crafting “And Then There Were None” is that the audience can make a believable case to point the finger at every one of the characters.
For Phil McGlaston, the play is a return to Triad Stage after a 16-year absence. McGlaston was part of the “Crumbs from the Table of Joy” cast in the company’s first season. In “And Then There Were None,” he plays Judge Wargrave, a retired judge who had no qualms about sentencing accused criminals to die.
“He takes control and guides the others through this bit of turmoil,” he said. One aspect of the play McGlaston said he finds appealing is the tension between holding to the normal rules of order and breaking out into complete chaos. This tension plays out as the isolated characters find their predicament increasingly dire.
Christie penned the first theatrical adaptation of “And Then There Were None,” which opened in London in 1943 as World War II engulfed Europe. In fact, the play had to change locations in 1944 after the theater was damaged by German bombs. The novel also has been adapted into movies in numerous languages.