Christie on Campus #6

Christie on Campus #6

Christie mystery

The strange case of the missing plaque

paulAgatha Christie famously disappeared in December 1926. The nation was gripped by this real-life mystery, which began when the 36-year-old author’s husband had asked her for a divorce.

Christie left the marital home in Sunningdale in Berkshire after writing a letter to her secretary to say she was going to Yorkshire.

Her Morris Cowley car and clothes were later found near Guildford, abandoned apparently after an accident, with no sign of the author, prompting speculation of suicide.Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 16.23.03

Eventually, more than 1,000 police officers and 15,000 volunteers joined the search.

Even fellow crime writers Arthur Conan Doyle and Dorothy L. Sayers became involved.

Christie eventually turned up at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate eleven days after leaving her home.

She had spent the entire time there, under an assumed name. She never discussed what happened.

Reasons ranging from depression and amnesia to a publicity stunt have been suggested.

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Agatha Christie in 1946

In 2006, a biographer used “medical case studies” to show that Christie “was in the grip of a rare but increasingly acknowledged mental condition known as a ‘fugue state’, or a period of out-of-body amnesia induced by stress. In effect, the writer was in a kind of trance for several days.”

Her disappearance even formed the basis of the film AGATHA (1979), starring Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman and Timothy Dalton.

And now – 92 years after the famed author became the star of her own ‘why-dunit’ rather than a ‘whodunit’ – another Christie-related disappearance is set to grip the nation. Well, perhaps not.

SUP Secretary and cast member Paul Cresser, our very own Captain Lombard, takes up the story:

ATTWNAND THEN THERE WERE NONE is the second Agatha Christie play that I’ve appeared in, having been cast as Leonard Vole in “Witness for the Prosecution” in Torquay many years ago.

In fact, I have something in common with Christie: we were both born in Torquay.

So a few days ago, whilst visiting my family for Christmas, I decided to visit the blue plaque that commemorates her birthplace.

I also wanted to prove to our Director, Paul Green, that I was looking at my script over the Christmas break!

I thought I’d be able to track down the plaque fairly easily, as my family said they knew exactly where to find it…” OR SO THEY THOUGHT!

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What Paul should have found…

“We were surprised on our arrival to find nothing but an empty space where the plaque should be.

I’ve already tried to investigate what has happened to it, but without success.”

We will continue with our enquiries and report back to you.

In the meantime, if you have any ideas on what’s happened to the plaque, do get in touch. Please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book  yourself.


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10

Concessions and group bookings also available

You can book your tickets here

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Ten Little Soldiers

Christie on Campus #5

Christie on Campus #5

ATTWN1953: the good, the bad and the plain ugly

Guest blogger Stephen Fenerty – who is playing William Henry Blore in SUP’s new production of Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – reflects on the year this version is set

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE is Christie’s bestselling novel, clocking up sales of more than 100 million copies worldwide.

Our production of this “masterpiece of suspense” takes place in 1953: the choice of our director, Paul Green.

The book itself was first published in 1939, when the Second World War was already under way. Christie wrote her play version in 1943, with hostilities still raging.

The story goes that at her agent’s urging, she changed the ending to a somewhat ‘softer’ and happier outcome, so as not to affect morale during wartime.

I’m pleased to report that SUP has reinstated her original 1939 ending from the book, using Christie’s original dialogue.

Anyway, in the original story, the action takes place some time in the late 1930s. Shifting it to 1953 means we retain that all-important vintage feel while also giving the story an ever-so-slightly more modern, post-war look.

TVcoronationIn the UK, the biggest event in 1953 was undoubtedly the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which was televised.

This was the first time many people had seen a television, and sales of the new-fangled device skyrocketed. It actually poured with rain on Coronation day – which, in our version, takes place just eight weeks before the murderous events on Soldier Island.

everestThe other momentous event of 1953 – famously announced in The Times newspaper on the same day as the Coronation – was the conquest of Mount Everest by a British expedition led by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

Wartime rationing was only just coming to an end in 1953, a full eight years after the close of the war. In particular, petrol rationing ends at the beginning of February (as well as sweet rationing). This leads to a huge influx of cars onto Britain’s pre-motorway road network.

The end of rationing also means clothes and fashions are changing. Younger women favour a more ‘relaxed’ waistline, and so-called ‘pancake’ make-up becomes the norm.

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Teddy boys

While swearing in public places is still an offence, youth culture linked to rock and roll music is starting to emerge with a vengeance, first in London before fanning out across the country.

1953 sees the Daily Express coin the name ‘Teddy Boy’ – Teddy being a shortening of Edwardian. Members of the Ted subculture were originally known as ‘Cosh Boys’.

So what of the plain ugly? The year starts darkly with the hanging of Derek Bentley for his part in the murder of PC Sidney Miles, in the notorious “Let him have it” case.

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Atomic test, USA, 1953

In America, meanwhile, President Truman announces that the US has developed the hydrogen bomb, with nuclear testing in Nevada in the spring and summer.

At the same time as the Cold War is hotting up, UFO sightings are on the increase.

At the end of January 1953, the North Sea flood kills more than 2,000 people in the Netherlands and on the east coast of Britain. Queen Mary dies in her sleep in March, with Joseph Stalin dying the same month.

John Christie arrives in prison van

John Christie arrives at court to be sentenced

The 10 Rillington Place murders are uncovered in March, with another Christie – John Reginald Halliday Christie – hanged for those grisly crimes just three weeks before the houseguests gather on Soldier Island.

That same week, the BBC airs the first episode of a groundbreaking sci-fi suspense serial Quatermass, while US spies Julian and Ethel Rosenberg are executed at Sing Sing Prison in New York.

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Piccadilly Circus, London – 1950s

With the Korean War officially ending, the Soviet prime minister announces – the same day as our characters arrive on Soldier Island – that the Soviet Union also has the hydrogen bomb. The country detonates its first thermonuclear weapon “Joe 4” a few days later.

This is the febrile atmosphere that forms the backdrop to SUP’s new production of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

It’s hardly any wonder that fear, suspicion and paranoia are the order of the day.

ryeBy the way, in 1953, Agatha herself – now aged 63 – is still working hard. That year sees her publish both a Hercule Poirot novel, After the Funeral, and a Miss Marple novel, A Pocket Full of Rye – another nursery rhyme reference, in this case ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’, and again featuring cyanide.

To give you an idea of Christie’s longevity and enduring popularity, the year before saw the premiere of her play The Mousetrap in November 1952 – and 66 years later it’s still running in London’s West End.

However, you have an opportunity in just a few weeks to see her masterwork of suspense live and kicking, onstage in Southampton…


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10

Concessions and group bookings also available

You can book your tickets here

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Christie on Campus #4

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Ten Little Soldiers

Meet the suspects/meet the victims

Part 2

The second and final part of our guide to the mysterious house guests on Soldier Island in Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – at NST Campus (Nuffield) Southampton from 23-26 January 2019 – you can book here

#ChristieOnCampus

In order of appearance continued – you’ll have to see the play for the order of disappearance

‘Mr Davis’ – Stephen Fenerty

This well-built and extremely bullish middle-aged house guest isn’t what he seems from the moment he steps foot on the island. Is he a South African millionaire as he claims or something else altogether: a “bit of a bad hat” with a history of corruption.

General MackenzieChris Aland

The oldest of the house guests, the General’s glory days are long behind him. Expecting a short holiday with Army chums, Mackenzie can be vague and detached: he misses his late wife terribly and appears guilt-ridden about a terrible choice that he once made…

Emily Brent Alison Wells

Rigid, ruthless and extremely religious, Miss Brent doesn’t suffer fools (or anyone) gladly. Although she reads the Bible every day, she lacks basic humanity – and refuses to take any responsibility for the tragic suicide of a young servant girl in her employ.

Judge Lawrence Wargrave Gavin Costigan

A retired judge, Justice Wargrave is intelligent and watchful, with an air of natural authority and commanding manner that mark him out as a natural leader. Could this man of the law have really sent an innocent man to the gallows?

Dr Armstrong – Hannah Harrison

A successful medical practitioner in the man’s world of 1950’s medicine, Elizabeth Armstrong has built a lucrative Harley Street practice as an in-demand nerve specialist. Her no-nonsense exterior may not be all it seems: did her respectability and success come at a price?


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

ATTWN

Christie on Campus #3

Moving into uncharted waters: the claustrophobia of Soldier Island

Director Paul Green is happy to report that the fear, suspicion and paranoia are coming along very nicely indeed

We are now well into rehearsals proper: time flies when you’re bumping people off, twice a week, and things are moving ahead at a cracking pace. A combination of good preparation and cast commitment meant we’d run through the play, in its entirety, in only the first three rehearsals.

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The cast of SUP’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

I’ve had the actors physically exploring the acting space, and pinpointing those moments of high tension.

I’ve deliberately designed a minimal set to accommodate 10 adults moving around it at the same time, at different speeds and in different ways. It’s like an elegant and sometimes disturbing dance. The cast (or rather, their characters) are coming to grips with who they should be close to, who they suspect and – crucially – how they move through the space.

It’s fascinating to watch.

This approach has already led to “bursts” of simultaneous movement that create some extremely engaging stage pictures.

There are also moments of (relative) calm and stillness, which seek to highlight those times of more frenetic action, and ratchet up the tension.

We want to stay one step ahead of our audiences, wrong-footing them, and serving up the unexpected, even when they think they know the material.

There will be a free-flowing feel to our version as opposed to the formulaic and very static “sitting down” murder mystery style common in other productions. Despite the large stage space that we’ll have at NST Campus, we want our audiences to be sucked into the story and to really share the claustrophobia of these dark characters who are trapped on Soldier Island…

So, even if you do know the story well, our promise is to show you AND THEN THERE WERE NONE like you’ve never seen it before: as Christie intended it, all those years ago. And you did know there are two alternate endings for the play, didn’t you?

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Not exactly “Love Island”

Closely linked to the movements, and particularly who each victim/suspect gravitates towards, the characters are all developing extremely well. It’s especially interesting to see the moments when different pairings come together and split apart as the action moves on.

Importantly, the actors continue to embrace all the challenges I’m throwing at them, which is great to see, and they seem to be having a blast.

It’s very much “a company” already, and we’re now moving into phase two of rehearsals. The scripts will be put down shortly (although some actors are almost there already) and I can promise lots more surprises, scares, jumps and tense action to come…

Follow our continued progress in future blogs. Please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and book early to get the seats you want


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

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Christie on Campus #2

Meet the suspects/meet the victims

Part 1

Your guide to the mysterious house guests on Soldier Island in Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – at NST Campus Southampton from 23-26 January 2019

In order of appearance – you’ll have to see the play for the order of disappearance

Mr Rogers – Jonathan Shepherd

An upright and dignified Devon man, Rogers the butler is a “proper servant” in every sense. But do he and his wife harbour a dark secret from a previous employer? It’s strange they only arrived on Soldier Island a few days before the rest of the house guests assembled…

Mrs RogersAnna Hussey

Capable housekeeper and loyal wife, Mrs Rogers is also unafraid to take the odd swipe at her husband and is quick to complain about the gaggle of incoming guests she has to cook and clean for, and with her mistress nowhere to be seen. Is she as frail as she appears?

Captain Philip Lombard Paul Cresser

Confident and resourceful, Lombard’s mysterious past includes time spent as a soldier. Do his boldness, cunning and easy charm mask something altogether more sinister? Lombard is instantly and vocally attracted to Vera, before events take a turn for the worst…

Vera Claythorne Jess Capes

A former governess employed as Secretary to the mistress of Soldier Island, Vera is trying to escape a dark event from her past… Intelligent, alert and emotional, she quickly embarks on a sparky and flirtatious relationship with Captain Lombard.

Anthony Marston – Alex Mawers

This young, dashing, amoral playboy likes fast cars and flirting with the ladies. Once he arrives – having driven at break-neck speed from London and nearly running over Dr Armstrong in the process – he sets his sights on Vera and quickly pokes fun at Captain Lombard…


Please follow our  progress in future blogs. Remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book early to get the seats you want.


SUP proudly presents Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at NST Campus theatre from Wed 23-Sat 26 January 2019 – tickets from just £10. Concessions and group bookings available.

You can book your tickets here

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