Agatha Christie meets Tarantino as novelist's thriller takes the stage

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The Independent Culture

And Then There Were None, arguably her best crime thriller, has been adapted for the stage by Kevin Elyot, the award-winning writer of My Night With Reg who has also made several television adaptations of Christie's Marple and Poirot stories.

Starring Tara Fitzgerald and Gemma Jones, the producers admit it is a bold bid to attract the type of audiences who have never been to one of her stage adaptations before, as well as appealing to family parties.

"It's Agatha Christie with gloves off," Brigid Larmour, one of the team behind the new production, said. "She's recently been a bit sanitised and made very cosy. But when you read her work, it's stark and uncompromising and challenging. The final scene in the book is extremely shocking."

Christie wrote a stage adaptation of the book in 1940 but whether for reasons of audience expectations at the time or a feeling that wartime theatre-goers needed cheering up, the play was not as explicit as the book. Ms Larmour said Elyot had taken the blood and guts further. "It's not tidy and it's not genteel," she said. "Kevin Elyot is a contemporary playwright and although he's true to the spirit of the book, he shows things more explicitly and more shockingly than would have been acceptable in the theatre conventions of her time. Things are flushed out and made specific. And we have extravagant amounts of blood. I hope she would have been approved."

And Then There Were None was written in 1939 and appeared on the London stage in 1943. It is a carefully planned mystery. She said the plot, in which nearly everyone has a guilty secret, was "near-impossible".

The intellectual property company Chorion, which owns the rights to most of the Christie estate, though not The Mousetrap, temporarily banned new theatre productions four years ago because it thought the number and type of shows were not necessarily benefiting the longevity of the Christie brand. Several more modern approaches to her whodunnits are being developed.

Previews of And Then There Were None start tonight at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, the first time a Christie play has been seen on the West End's main drag. The official first night is 25 October.