Thursday 27 October 2016

Classic bleak thriller gets star treatment

John Boland

Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30

Dublin actor Aidan Turner.
Dublin actor Aidan Turner.

Shown over three nights, And Then There Were None (BBC1) was a rather spiffing adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1939 crime novel, originally called Ten Little N.....s, and then given the equally racist title of Ten Little Indians before its publisher settled on the five words that end the children's rhyme on which the book was based.

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The startlingly bleak storyline eschews the reassuring presence of a Hercule Poirot or a Miss Marple as the 10 strangers summoned to a remote island off the Devon coast get murdered one by one. I remember reading the book as a young teenager and being terrified by its remorseless nihilism.

For Sarah Phelps's new adaptation, the viewer saw more of the back story to each of the variously guilty characters, which, if not handled properly, could have diluted the tension but which here was so expertly interwoven into the main narrative that it didn't.

And the cast were top-notch, with Dublin actor Aidan Turner (pictured below) showing that his Poldark was no one-off fluke, and with outstanding playing in other roles by Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson and especially Australian actress Maeve Dermody as the young woman with a dark secret.

Some of the plot-mechanics creaked a bit, but this was a distinguished contribution to the Christie screen canon.

Differently absorbing was We're Doomed! The Dad's Army Story (BBC1), a dramatised account of the making of that endearingly old-fashioned sitcom, with Paul Ritter and Richard Dormer excellent as scriptwriters Jimmy Perry and David Croft in their battle with dubious BBC executives.

John Sessions was uncannily like Arthur Lowe (Capt Mainwaring), Julian Sands was a fine John Le Mesurier (Sgt Wilson), while there were fine turns, too, from Kevin Bishop as James Beck (Walker) and Keith Allen as Beeb boss Paul Fox.

It helped if you'd fond memories of Dad's Army and its characters, but the drama worked in its own right as a loving recreation of a long-vanished broadcasting era.

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