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.

teddy

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.

nuclear

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.

piccadilly-circus-at-night-1950s-4

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

Noose shot

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #8

Countdown to showtime

Dirk Gently Production Manager and cast member Kevin Bowers provides a quick end-of-year update…

We’ve had the SUP Christmas party, we’re now in the Christmas break, and this is the final Dirk production blog of the year. I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I’d like to wish you all the best for 2018. mww-e1514465663747.jpg

So, where are we up to, with the show? And what can we expect in the New Year?

Well, December saw the director and myself have a highly productive technical meeting with NST Campus to discuss the productions needs of the show in detail. This is quite a complex production with lots of moving parts: the cast, obviously, as well as many props,  costumes – including the aliens – along with pre-filmed inserts, magic tricks and some brand-new computer animations, and that’s without mentioning the technical aspects of the lighting and projection, and a pretty detailed list of sound effects. Another SUP team, meanwhile, had a meeting with the NST Box Office around marketing; helping to spread the word about the show to previous SUP and Nuffield audiences.

It’s good to report that, for instance, the animations are now almost complete, we’ve got 99% of the props that we need, including some of the trickier ones, the cast know virtually all of their lines – as you’d expect of this experienced team, five weeks to curtain up – and the director still has a full head of hair! So I guess that means we’re on the right track.

As I say, we only have five weeks left, meaning we’re going into the most intense period of rehearsals, requiring concentration and commitment in the final push, as well as the key period in our efforts to market the show, reaching out audiences and selling as many tickets as possible for what promises to be a wonderful evening’s entertainment.

One thought is front of mind, across cast and crew, and despite the busy weeks that undoubtedly lie ahead: and that is, remembering to have fun – so we can dazzle our audiences, sharing this wonderful tale and delivering a great night out.

 

Dirk Gently’s Casebook – File #7

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”

Lights! Camera! Hot water bottle! Featured cast member Jane Beasley shares her experiences of a rather chilly night shoot, filming special inserts for SUP Theatre Company’s new production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

JaneB

No Way! She died with her boots on… guest blogger Jane Beasley rehearsing for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Have you ever wondered what a ‘best boy’ and a ‘grip’ do, in the credits for a film? I have – and following my recent experiences in front of the camera for SUP’s new show, I now know the answers.

Friday was the first of two filming sessions for my character in Dirk Gently... This excited me much (as does the fact that for this production, I have a body double, which felt really grand, but that’s a story for another blog).

I turned up in costume at the appointed hour and was warmly welcomed by Chris, who was doing technical things with lights on his driveway around a beautiful old car. What followed was a few hours of my sitting in the car saying my lines, whilst around me the car shook with the vibrations of “the road” – and brooms, twigs and a tennis racket all used to create effects ranging from shadows and rain to passing cars. A little bit of movie magic explained.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that it was the coldest night of the year to date. Within a short while, the cold started to get to me, which meant the perfectionists I was with (our cameraman and the show’s director, Lorraine) both want to reshoot in the New Year to get the best possible footage for what’s going to be a very exciting production.

What struck me most was the warm welcome from Chris and his family into their warm and welcoming kitchen for mugs of hot tea and mince pies. And, when I got home, I was greeted by Mr B. clutching a cuppa and a hot water bottle for me, which he instructed me to take straight to the already lit fire. Hollywood A-listers can keep their champagne and ‘blue only’ smarties – I’ll take the warmth of those cuppas, thanks!

Jane is appearing in Dirk Gently’s… as Jordan Way – onstage at NST Campus (Southampton University) from Tue 30th Jan to Sat 3rd Feb 2018. You can book tickets here