In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past Inside articles click here.
By John Rensenhouse
I think most of us tend to take Agatha Christie for granted, thinking of her as the great mystery writer, blah, blah, blah. Every time I work on one of her plays, I am born anew in my appreciation of her. Working on AND THEN THERE WERE NONE has been no exception. Her intricate plotting impresses, but it is the expression of her personal, political, and social views, that always snap me awake once more to her deep talent. She was an extremely smart woman who had definite opinions on religion, class, and human nature, and she expresses them in a manner that still rings true today. With a mind as sharp as George Bernard Shaw and a gift for mystery and plotting, it is no wonder she is the second-best selling author of all time, taking a back seat only to William Shakespeare.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is about justice; divine justice. Is there anyone truly ‘above the law?’ Is that thing we call ‘our conscience’ suitably equipped to monitor our transgressions, or is there a need for some higher power to keep us within the bounds of right behavior? Though sprinkled with a strong flavor of religious righteousness, this play is really a layman’s examination of justice, and no one is free from its all reaching grasp: A general, a doctor, a judge, a policeman, a maid, a butler, a working woman, a young lothario, a middle-aged adventurer, an elderly spinster. They are all held to equal task in the mind of the world, and it’s a curious thing to consider.
Interestingly, in 1943 Ms. Christie felt compelled to give the play version something of a happy ending, quite different from the ending in her original novel, which was written in 1939. This had to do with the advent of World War ll and a perceived notion that audiences needed something brighter, as the world itself had taken a very dark turn. In 2015, her grandson commissioned a writer to contrive an ending to the play that would be truer to the original intent of the novel, and this is the ending I have chosen to use for the Kansas City Actors Theatre production. In my mind, it is far more dramatic and takes the themes of justice to a more satisfying conclusion.
It is my hope with “justice” in mind that this production will do just that to the deserving work of a great mind like Agatha Christie. She deserves it.
Kansas City Actors Theatre’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE runs August 9th – 27th at the H&R Block City Stage in Union Station. For more information visit kcactors.org.