Sometimes the best direction is misdirection.
“I am taking great care to make sure that lots of people are around victims whenever possible,” said Randall W. Knott, who is directing the Agatha Christie thriller, “And Then There Were None,” for the Wheaton Drama Playhouse. “I don’t want the audience to see character X constantly around victim Y, Z, etc. I want the audience to notice that victim Y, or victim Z, had MANY people around him or her ... and any one of them could have done it. And Ms. Christie throws a couple of twists in the plot, which helps.”
“And Then There Were None” will be presented from Jan. 24 to Feb. 16 at the Wheaton Drama Playhouse.
Set in the 1940s, “And Then There Were None” centers on 10 strangers who are trapped in a house on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon, England. One by one they are accused of murder; one by one they start to die. In the play, statuettes of little soldier boys on the mantel in the house fall to the floor and break as another guest dies. A nursery rhyme tells how each of the 10 “soldiers” met his death until there were none.
“The basic plot is that a group of people is invited to an island manor, then accused, en masse, of some rather heinous crimes,” Knott said. “One by one, the party guests answer for their crimes.”
Although the play has been produced hundreds of times since it was written in 1943, and many movie versions have been made, Knott believes it will still be fresh for current audiences.
“I’m not sure that people remember as much about the story as they think they do,” he said. “Yes, someone is guilty at the end. But I don’t really believe everyone will remember who that is.”
Sometimes directors like to update plays and make them more contemporary, but that was not an option for this classic thriller.
“The show must be played as a period piece,” Knott said. “One simple reason: cell phones. The intrigue and terror is created by the inability to escape, or even let anyone know what is happening. A simple text would foil our killer’s plans.”
For Knott, the main appeal of the play is “what’s next?”
“I think it’s a wickedly entertaining story,” he said. “I think there’s great appeal in wondering how one would react - given the same circumstances. I think the idea of wondering when the other shoe is going to drop is terrifying.”