Christie on Campus #10

Christie on Campus #10

It’s show time: don’t blink

Ten victims. Ten suspects. Ten blogs… AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

It took a little persuasion from SUP to convince director Paul Green to take the helm on this new version of Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

He’d seen too many creaky am-dram productions on cluttered drawing room sets – and so he wanted to try something a little different…

 

“Don’t blink. Don’t even blink… Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t blink! Good luck…”

This time last year, if you had told me that I’d be directing an Agatha Christie play at NST Campus, I simply would not have believed you. But here we are, and you are about to see the culmination of a great deal of hard work, fun and ‘thinking outside the box’.

Fittingly, this is number ten in our series of pre-show blogs: the tenth and the last.

My starting point with the play was our group of performers. How do you integrate people who haven’t all worked together to trust each other? Remarkably easily, as it turned out.

I’ve been blessed with a cast that is happy to take multiple leaps of faith (quite literally) into uncharted territory, from the very first rehearsal onwards.

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The cast of SUP’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Maintaining the tension, suspense and paranoia that I wanted has been challenging and exhausting for all concerned but will, I am sure, produce a gripping, exciting and involving experience.

If you look at Christie’s script, I think the only real issues are to do with the stage mechanics, not her writing: notably the extremely detailed stage directions and the set itself, which are extremely prescriptive – if you choose to use them.

Her plotting is great. The story rattles along at a fine pace. Her characterization and dialogue are excellent. But the first thing I did was to strip back the set and furniture, so we could focus the action (and the audience) on what was really important – the growing suspicion, fear and paranoia on Soldier Island – and to throw the stage directions out of the window.

I wanted to create a far more fluid, free-flowing and immersive experience – reaching out into the audience at times.

So, if you come along expecting a drawing room/sit-down jolly murder mystery, I’d suggest that you strap yourself in and prepare for a rollercoaster ride instead. I believe theatre should be fun for all involved as well as challenging and risky – and hopefully there will be shocks and surprises aplenty.

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Paul Green

I also believe that challenging theatre convention provides a more interesting experience, so our audiences can expect to see stage pictures and behaviour that might grate and raise questions. That’s healthy.

A great many people have contributed to this show, far too many to mention, but my heartfelt thanks go to all those who have helped and supported the show.

So, can you spot the clues?

Never let your guard down. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t blink.

Enjoy the show.


Take your seats… 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

Click here to book tickets

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Christie on Campus #8

Countdown to death

It’s all hotting up in rehearsals, as the scripts go down and the cast don their costumes.

Director Paul Green pens our latest blog from the kill-zone that is Devon’s Soldier Island…

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All cast having made it through the Christmas and New Year break virtually unscathed – allowing for the odd car accident, house move and hangover, of course – everybody is now present and correct for Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE.

As you may have seen from some of our recent photographs, including those on this very page, the authentic 1950’s costumes have been obtained and tweaked. Just a few finishing touches are required now; the carefully chosen vintage costumes match the characters.

I think they look wonderful. It’s such a shame so many have to die. Then again, considering what they’ve all done in the past…

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Director Paul Green

These costumes really add something to the tone and character of the production.

Get it right, and the audience simply accept and get on with enjoying the show: just another element of the theatrical jigsaw to assimilate in a barely noticed way.

But get the costumes wrong, and the audience notice. We want the audience to be fully immersed – not distracted. 

So, we’re now entering the final stretch of rehearsals and the tension is rising nicely.

As the scripts have been torn from grasping hands, the flow and pace I’ve been striving for is now being achieved.

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Have you booked yet?

Everyone is having fun – or so they tell me – and this is evident in the performances and the group dynamic.

I am confident that, visually and verbally, this will be quite different from the traditional murder mystery format. I also believe this will be a very good thing – especially if you like edge of your seat tension and surprises.

Our prompt keeps telling me how transfixed she is by it all  – and she knows the ending!

I’m delighted with where we are, and I can’t wait to see it in front of an audience. So please make sure you’re part of this show too – by buying your ticket now.




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.

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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 #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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Christie on Campus #1

Welcome to suspicion, fear, paranoia and ‘get to know you’ games

Kicking off our latest series of production blogs, Paul Green is our first victim: a director and actor with a long and impressive theatrical CV, he also has some distinctly sinister plans to bump off cast members

This being my first show for SUP, I wanted to get to know the cast, and to help cast who were members new to the company to get to know the more established SUP players. The cast for AND THEN THERE WERE NONE includes performers who joined SUP in the last few months working alongside more longstanding members – it’s a 50/50 split, really, between “old” and “new”. And of course, I’m a relatively new member of the team myself. 

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Paul Green is directing Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE for SUP Theatre Company

To me, simply starting rehearsals “cold” can throw everybody slightly, so we started the entire process with a four-hour session of exercises, on a Sunday, to get to know each other. This was, in part, about developing trust and team-working among the company members.

The first exercise, the “Name Game” – which we still play at the start of every rehearsal session – has a number of purposes. It’s for everyone to learn everybody else’s real name as well as their character name, to get them used to establishing eye contact, and getting them used to doing and thinking three things at once (which is, as I keep telling them, the basis of acting). If you can imagine mentally patting your head and rubbing your stomach and reciting the alphabet all at the same time, you get the idea. The cast has embraced this after persevering and the determination shown has been impressive. Much hilarity is also derived from identifying who is establishing eye contact and where you should walk and to whom (it takes too long to explain, but you should play it some time).

I also introduced the cast to “Flying”, which is pretty much as it sounds. Only one intrepid cast member did it to begin with, but after seeing what it entails, everyone took part, with one or two people still having to be convinced. You’ll see some pictures here.

We then played a game known as “Killer” or “Wink Murder” to introduce the cast to the feelings of paranoia and suspicion that I’ll be foregrounding in our production. In this game, one person is secretly chosen as the murderer and winks at their victims when no-one is looking. The victim then “dies” as spectacularly as possible in a way that also misdirects. So, as you can imagine if you know any members of this cast, the “spectacular death” aspect was really underplayed (the longest death scene was timed at more than two minutes). The more you play it, the more extreme the deaths are, and the more paranoid everyone becomes… precisely what I was aiming for.

Of course, we got through far more than just these games on the day, with everyone throwing themselves into the activities wholeheartedly – and we had a lot of fun while working hard to build a strong basis for teamwork and the underlying themes of the production.

Please follow our continued progress in future blogs from various people and different directions and of course, please remember to tell your friends, family and colleagues about the show – and don’t forget to book early 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 available.

You can book your tickets here

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Two Murderous Comedies

It’s a wrap

This week’s guest blogger is Stephen Fenerty, SUP co-chair. He reflects on the performance nights for our October one-act plays – and on a great audience reaction

First and foremost, a huge thank you to our wonderful audiences. 70-plus people enjoyed the Friday night double-bill, with that number swelling to more than 90 on the Saturday – which meant we were almost at capacity in the Rose Theatre and, more importantly, ensuring a great audience response for our casts.

And what a group of performers! 13 actors and actresses across the two plays, with more than half appearing in their first productions for SUP. And everybody did us proud, so a big thank you to our wonderful casts. Here’s a slide show, from rehearsals to get-in, show nights and after-show party…

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In the four-handed 1920’s murder mystery spoof A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE, the daft gags, double entendre and fast pace had the audience laughing and groaning in equal measure. The cast – experienced SUP hands Kerrie Brady and Naomi Scott alongside new members Martin ‘Timber’ Kelly and Michele Zadra – delivered Elliot Strange’s script with aplomb.

With the Rose Theatre at Barton Peveril College providing a bar for the first time, our audiences refreshed themselves at the interval before returning to their seats for THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND by Tom Stoppard.

The longer of the two plays – 65 minutes compared to 35 minutes for the first half – this had the audience in stitches with its smart blend of satire, word play and slapstick, with excellent surreal performances and comic turns from an ensemble cast: Nick Hayward and Tim Ellwood, Paul Jones, Sarah Fergusson, Lee Barden, Jake Williams, Meg Britton, Carolina Scott, and not forgetting Andrew Clarke as the most convincing corpse on an SUP stage since Sophia in Dirk Gently.

Special thanks, of course, go to our brilliant behind-the-scenes team and tech crew, who make it all happen, including directors David Green and Kevin Bowers, along with Duncan Lang, Clayton Peters, Steve Town, Olly Trojak, John Peters and others. Thanks for all your help and continued support: we couldn’t do it without you!

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Lady Stoppard, Sabrina Guinness, with the SUP secretary and co-chairs

We were also delighted on the Friday night to welcome Lady Stoppard, Sabrina Guinness. While she’d read THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND she had never seen it performed – and said she enjoyed the show hugely. Sir Tom, who couldn’t attend because he’s currently immersed in writing a new play, sent a handwritten ‘good luck’ message to cast and crew.

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A sneak preview of our next production: the Ten Little Soldiers themselves. Click here to book for Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

When we plan and perform these one-acts, in addition to our ‘usual’ annual cycle of Totton Festival and January production at NST Campus, our objective is to provide more opportunities for SUP members to get involved, especially our new members, and to give audiences more opportunities to see our work.

There are obviously costs associated with putting on a show: licensing for the scripts (per night) plus set, costumes, props, van hire, and of course venue hire – the latter tending to be the main budget item. While we always try to “beg and borrow” wherever possible, using items for low or no cost, some of these costs are fixed. And there’s always a risk we may lose money on a production: you can never really tell if you’re going to attract an audience, despite your best marketing efforts and word-of-mouth.

Our objective is to at least break even, because it means we’re not eating into our reserves – but making a little profit is always great news, as it means we can carry on what we’re doing and provide even more opportunities.

I’m happy to report that while the final “profit and loss” accounts are still being finalised, it appears we have made a small profit on our Two Murderous Comedies. So thank you, once again, to all cast, crew and others at SUP who make it all possible – and, of course, to our audiences.

We hope to see you all at NST Campus 23-26 January 2019 for what promises to a rip-roaring production: Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE – with tickets from just £10

CLICK HERE TO BOOK

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It’s Murder – Take Two!

A Jolly Sinister Jape: a director’s journey part 2

This week’s guest blogger is director Kevin Bowers, currently rehearsing A Jolly Sinister Jape for SUP. He was previously seen for SUP, bless him, sporting a rather fetching wet-suit in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Kevin writes…

Dear reader, we last spoke on 3rd September, so it’s high time for an update.

Rehearsals are progressing at quite a pace. The cast know their lines, their moves and – importantly – are having fun. There is a real sense of teamwork and genuine collaboration in the rehearsal room. and the characters in the script are coming to life; lovely. The humour on the page is filling the room and making me laugh out loud. And of course, it’s not always been plain sailing. Choreographing some of the scenes has been a challenge, for sure. A flying glass in particular has taken a huge amount of practice and I’m sure we’ll need to keep using the plastic stunt double for a while yet.

Biffy, played by Martin ‘Timber’ Kelly, is fortunately quick to recover from being hit with a poker, and then being stepped over and dropped by the “caring” and rather dashing Italian Lord Stubbs, played by real-life Italian Michele Zadra. And, of course, famous actress Ophelia LeBobo played by Naomi Scott is the third side of this triangle. The chemistry between these three characters as they unwittingly vie for affection is palpable and electric. Their comic disdain is clear and the comedic bitterness oozes out.

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19 & 20 October 7.30pm, Rose Theatre, Eastleigh – http://www.ticketsource.co.uk/sup

When this trio are joined by a mysterious stranger, the dynamic of the group has to change and sides are chosen. The newcomer, played by Kerrie Brady, regales them with stories of foreign travels and loves lost, but who exactly is she? Come and find out at Eastleigh’s Rose Theatre in October – you can book here

It’s been a fulfilling experience for me to work with such an engaged and enthusiastic cast. They’ve really bonded and supported each other. This was very apparent as the scripts were, begrudgingly, put down, and some lines were difficult to recall. They treated each other patiently and were reassuring throughout. Nobody has been backwards in coming forward with suggestions and ideas for what their character could do, or how to say something, and all have been willing to try things suggested by the director others in the cast.

With less than three weeks to go, I’m confident we’ll be giving our audiences a very, very funny show. Don’t forget to book!


A JOLLY SINISTER JAPE is 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

You can book tickets here

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