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

It’s Murder – Take Two

It’s Murder – Take Two

Great Scott!

This week’s blog is from a real diva… famed actress Ophelia La Bobo (aka real-life SUP performer Naomi Scott) who finds herself tangled up in A Jolly Sinister Jape

My public want to hear from me? Well, I suppose that that’s no surprise. After all, I am the famous Ophelia La Bobo. You’ve probably seen me in films such as ‘The Attack of the Killer Jelly’. And of course I have another one just around the corner. I can’t wait to start work on ‘The Curse of the Human Dung Beetle’.

Working in film is so thrilling. The lights… the people… the fame! And my characters get to have such marvellous adventures.

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I’m an adventurer at heart – so long as I don’t get muddy or break a nail.

Can you believe that some people actually go to far-off lands where they traipse through forests and mountains, sleeping outside and drinking from rivers? How ghastly! Some even jump out of aeroplanes! How silly.

But it’s true that I yearn for more excitement. It’s not my husband Biffy’s fault that he’s such a bore. But of all the men that I could have married, I really would have imagined someone more interesting – perhaps with an exotic accent?

Oh, the show? Well, it’s a bit of a step backwards appearing in theatre rather than on the silver screen, of course, but it’s good for one to remember one’s roots. And of course I know that my public will appreciate being able to see me in the flesh. The Rose Theatre, you say? Where’s that? Eastleigh? Never heard of it. No matter. I’m sure that it will be positively ripping!


You can see Naomi in person as Ophelia in A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE –  on a double bill with THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre, 19th-20th October 2018. Tickets are only £11 standard and £9.50 concessions – with no booking fees payable. Click here to book tickets

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The Effect of Colour on Audience Response in Theatre

The Effect of Colour on Audience Response in Theatre

Haven’t got the plan of the set yet, but as usual my mind is wandering to the colours that the three kitchens need to be. Colour has always been very powerful for me. Put something on a purple background I am likely to like it, it is the colour I feel safe in. Make it a green background and I am running a mile (too many memories of school uniforms).

So colour will play a definite role in Absurd. I know the Hopcroft’s house (Act 1) will be white and yellow, although some people have suggested white and pink but that is just a little too fluffy, Yellow and white for me says cleanliness, exactness and perfectionism, which is how the scene definitely starts, but will the audience think the same way as me or have I got it totally wrong. Research needed…

The effect of colour on Audience Response in Theatre Scenic Design (Thesis by Alison Bell)   Worth a read!

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