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September 18, 2019
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And Then There Were None: Young Karachi Actors Take You Back In Time, The Agatha Christie Way

Reading literature is not one of the favoured pastimes of the current generation. However, by adapting and performing on And Then There Were None, the young Karachi actors have proved that staying connected to classics is never a waste of time. Directed by Arman Tejani and Ahmed Majeed Agloria, the adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel into a play is currently open for public at the T2F, a venue that became popular amongst youngsters because of its closeness to books and literature.

What is And Then There Were None all about?

And Then There Were None is a classic mystery novel penned by Dame Agatha Christie back in the 1940s and is one of her best read novels that doesn’t feature either Agatha Christie, Miss Marple or any of her popular detectives. In fact, it is so suspenseful and shockingly engrossing that the readers don’t need a detective since they are playing that role themselves. It revolves around a group of strangers who are called to a mansion by an ‘unknown’ benefactor who accuses them all of committing murders during their lifetime. One by one, every member of the group starts falling dead till ‘there were none!’ Who is murdering them and which of the guests is collaborating with their mysterious host, you will have to watch the play to know all about that.

How was it made relevant for theatre and the modern-day public?

One must commend Sarah Saifi and her Drama Queen Productions for choosing a play that still appeals to the audience around the world. Not only did they take the brave decision to stage the play in the original language, they dressed all the characters in the 1940s fashion, taking the modern-day audience back in time with them. Keeping it close to the original, the directors kept the plot more or less the same, except the climax which they adapted in such a way that no new actor besides the 10 on stage would be introduced to confuse the public. In the original novel, after every one of the guests is found dead, Scotland Yard gets involved and a message in the bottle reveals all, whereas in this theatre adaptation, they kept it simple, yet effective.  The audience didn’t leave their seats because they were so engrossed in the play, and even those who had guessed the end stayed back to confirm whether their assessment was correct or not.

What makes the play more special than the other theatre plays taking place in the city?

Unlike the many theatre plays that are taking place in the city, this one is in the English language, features actors who are learning the tricks of the trade and was held at a place that is not an auditorium. Also, all the actors must be commended for not snapping out of their characters even when the backdoor opened and closed, whenever a phone of a careless audience rang or whenever someone from the audience needlessly clapped. To put themselves in a place and time where even telephones were considered luxury was too big a challenge for this ‘mobile generation’. In an era, when you don’t even go to parties without your smartphone or keep it close to you while sleeping, staying off the radar was heroic, since it would have messed up the performances. The actors, most of them in their 20s and starting their professional careers, acted as if they were actually in the 1940s, the setting of the drama, time when their own grandparents must be in their 20s, looking more or less like them!

Ahmed Majeed Agloria lead the cast with an unforgettable performance!

Although Arman Tejani calls the shot during the play’s staging, it is co-director and actor Ahmed Majeed Agloria who takes the whole cast along, on the stage. He plays Captain Philip Lombard who is the only one of the island with a gun, has been part of the British Army and likes to check out women, especially young ones, alone on the island. Like everyone else, he is also accused of deserting his battalion in war and shamed for his actions but he keeps on denying it, claiming he did what he thought was best for the soldiers. The two ladies Komal Ahmed (Vera Elizabeth Claythorne) and Momina Qadri (Dr. Armstrong) were outstanding as well for not only did they look like they were from the 1940s, they would have seemed out of place in the current era. Their dressing, their mannerisms and their dialogue delivery all seemed to belong to the 1940s, making them stand their ground in front of their male cast members. They were also accused of doing the unthinkable and they acted as if they hadn’t slept because the guilt was eating them from the inside.

Then there were Ammar Sohail Javed (Anthony James Marston), Mohammad Ali Hashmi (Thomas Rogers), and Naveed Kamal (Justice Lawrence John Wargrave) who owned their onstage characters as if they were written for them. The death scenes of those who died in front of the audience seemed real enough and none of them moved because they were in character, and had to be removed by the volunteers after the lights faded.

And then there were the lights and lightening!

The team behind the lighting and special effects should be commended for doing a job well done; had their work not been up to the mark, the audience wouldn’t have gone back into the 1940s, and the ambience would have seemed recent than past. After every murder that takes place on the stage, the lights would dim and only come back after the body is moved off the stage, or the actor playing it sent backstage. The lightening effect also increased the audience’s heartbeat because it came at appropriate times, at intervals when the actors were silent instead of the time when they were delivering dialogues. It wasn’t raining outside when the play was being staged but trust me, you would have assumed that it was, such powerful was the effect of the background artists.

The Verdict – It’s A Must-watch play, even if you have read the novel!

Usually people who have read the novel avoid adaptations be it on TV, films or theatre. That way, they can stay close to the original and not get disturbed when the ‘adapters’ take creative liberty. However, this adaptation of And Then There Were None will not leave you disturbed because the directors have done an excellent job by adapting the play as per their convenience. They cut short the ending but kept the essence and had Agatha Christie been alive, she wouldn’t have minded it. In fact, she would have approved of all actors and actresses for they did a wonderful job and seemed set for an impressive career in the coming days. To play someone from the current era would have been too easy for them and that’s why their performance gets two thumbs up, since they went ahead and did what was the last thing expected from them. Watch it, before the play goes off-stage and ‘there are none’ to entertain you!

And Then There Were None is open to the public from August 10, 2019