(From left) Dwight Turner, Jordon Hillhouse, Hilton Smith, Tom Lestrade, Charli Bardwell, Heather Barnes, Gina Winstead, Michael Gibbs and Debbi Ethredge star in Black Rose Theatre’s upcoming production of “And Then There Were None.”
Photo by Trip Burns.
What outrage is this?
Eight people have received invitations to vacation at a remote island guesthouse. All are strangers to one another. Even the cook and butler are new to the house, hired through letters, and, like the guests, they have not met the owner.
As the guests start to settle in, they begin to uncover oddities. The owners have not arrived. For some, the people who supposedly extended their invitations are not on the guest list. The boat that brought them to Soldier Island has left the group stranded.
Then, as they gather before the first night's dinner, a voice suddenly rings out. Each one is guilty of murder, the voice accuses. This will be no vacation. Rather, it is to be a trial, in more ways than one. By the end of Act I, one of the guests falls over, dead, poison in his cocktail.
"And Then There Were None," a play based on the best-selling 1939 Agatha Christie novel "Ten Little Indians," is the newest offering from Brandon's Black Rose Theatre. In classic Christie tradition, the play promises an evening of mayhem, mystery, murder and inevitable misdirection. No one is innocent—not the old general, not the flamboyant Oxford preppie, not priggish spinster, the giggly secretary, the prim nerve doctor or even the retired judge—not even the bustling cook. All are suspect.
Who will survive? Who is the killer?
Many of the players had roles in previous Black Rose productions, director Tempy Murray says, and most have been on the stage before. One is making his stage debut, but like spotting the killer, playgoers will not likely pick him out of the cast.
This will be the first play Murray has directed in eight years. She brought the script to Black Rose's play committee and claimed it for her own. "It's a dark play, and it needs to be done darkly," Murray says.
"It was probably the first mystery I read as a teenager a long, long time ago," she says. It was the first murder mystery for many of the cast members, as well.
The play is very English, and the accents can be challenging.
"We're working on accents," Murray says. "I told them that if anything, it may be very southern English."
Murray has been involved with Black Rose since its inception in 1991, but while she was raising her family and working full time at Walmart (where she's been for 26 years), she rarely had the opportunity to act or direct. Now, she returns to the love of live theater that dates back to her community college days, even if it's not her day job.
Black Rose moved to its permanent location in 1993, she says, but no one seems to know who painted the building its distinctive bubble-gum pink. The company staged its first play in the Brandon courthouse.
Her favorite part of "And Then There Were None," is the "very nice, but creepy scene in Act II between the general and Vera (a former governess)," she says.
The third act "builds and builds to the climax," she adds. Murray has her favorite and least favorite characters, too, another mystery for the audience to explore.
Murray loves directing, "seeing it all come together," she says. There's always that point when she realizes that the show is solid, though she used to get anxious early in the process.
"I try real hard not to panic anymore," Murray says, and with four weeks of rehearsal, she's confident. "I think we've got a show, and I think we've got a good show," she says, one that is sure to keep the audience "on the edge of their seats."
Black Rose Theatre Company (103 Black St., Brandon) presents "And Then There Were None" April 3-6 and 10-13. Call 601-825-1293, or visit blackrosetheatre.org for tickets and more information.