Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None opens this week at the Walnut Street Theatre. This play is Christie’s bestselling novel. It is a play about ten strangers lured to a remote island by a mysterious host for a getaway weekend, but what they encounter is mysterious deaths as the guests are killed one by one. I had the pleasure of speaking to Greg Wood who is returning to the Walnut’s stage to play Sir Lawrence Wargrave. Wood spoke with me about the play, its ongoing popularity and being an actor in the Philadelphia area.
Kelli Curtin: Could you tell me about And Then There Were None?
Greg Wood: And Then There Were None is an Agatha Christie play, and this particular show has had seven different titles, and has been made into two different movies. In this play, one by one, each of us gets our turn to be killed. The show takes place on an island off the coast of England. All the guests in the play were invited to this island by the Owens, but the guests figure out that there is not a Mr. and Mrs. Owen. The guests try to figure out throughout the show why they were invited to this remote location and what is going on.
Kelli Curtin: What can audiences expect when seeing this play?
Greg Wood: This is a really good “who done it.” The audience will try to figure out who is committing the murders, and they really will not know until the end of the play. Audience members who have never seen And Then There Were None before will have a fun time trying to figure out the mystery.
One by one each of the characters in the play are starting to die. They all begin to suspect each other of being the murderer. The story of this Christie play is great because it really holds the attention of the audience.
Kelli Curtin: Tell me about your character, Sir Lawrence Wargrave.
Greg Wood: Sir Lawrence Wargrave is a judge, he is known as the “hanging judge.” He sent many guilty people to their deaths.
When we do this story night after night we figure out in the rehearsal process how much to let on. There is a balance we learn as actors who are in plays, particularly this one, about how much information we reveal to the audience.
Kelli Curtin: And Then There Were None premiered in London in 1943. Why do you think this play is still popular?
Greg Wood: People love murder mysteries. People come out of the woodwork to see this play, this Christie play even brings in people who do not frequently come to the theatre. It is great to see so many people come see a live production.
Previously, before I was a professional actor, I worked at a hotel performing murder mysteries. People love these “who done its” and they like thrillers. Murder mysteries are like a rollercoaster ride, they are thrilling and fun. In general, people love coming to see Christie’s murder mysteries.
Kelli Curtin: You have a very successful career. Is there anyone/anything you attribute with your success?
Greg Wood: A lot of luck, and timing. I began my career in Philadelphia in the beginning of what I call the theatre renaissance, which is when actors who were making a career in Philadelphia were beginning to be recognized. When I first started working in Philadelphia, the Walnut Street Theatre was much different. Most of the actors they hired were from New York City, and at the time they seldom hired Philly actors. However, now most of the actors they hire are from Philadelphia and that is a great thing.
I began working in Philadelphia at theatres such as the Arden, Novel Stages and the Wilma. At one point I said to myself I could go to New York City to be a temp or I could make a living in Philadelphia as an actor. Terry Nolan, [artistic director of the Arden Theatre Company] summed it up best when he said, “Philadelphia is a company of actors.” I feel lucky that there is enough theatre in this town that we can make a living as an actor.
Kelli Curtin: What was your favorite role you have played thus far? Are there any other roles you would like to play onstage?
Greg Wood: My favorite role so far is Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac.
There are plenty of roles I would like to do. I would love to play a few of the older roles in Arthur Miller plays such as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and Joe Keller in All My Sons. I would also like to eventually play James Tyrone in Long Days Journey Into Night.
Kelli Curtin: What gives you the most fulfillment onstage?
Greg Wood: The audience. Live theatre is the only medium that the actor controls. In theatre actors are responsible for their art, no one can cut, edit or piece together your best performance. In film and television you have no control what tape is used. However, on stage no one can stop you, it is just you, your coworkers and the audience. During live theatre every single night is a different experience because the audience is always different and the show changes as the audiences’ reactions change.
Kelli Curtin: Why do you believe live theatre is important?
Greg Wood: People will never get the same sense of being in the same room while watching a television show or movie as they do from a live theatre performance. In a movie, people see the finished product and it never changes. Yet, in live theatre, anything can happen. Audience member may see an actor drop a line or in this particular play, a gun could not go off – how actors and audience members react to what happens onstage is exciting.
Greg Wood can be seen in Walnut Street Theatre’s production of And Then There Were None. This show runs at the Walnut through April 26, 2015. For more information and tickets visit their website at http://www.walnutstreettheatre.org or call the box office at 215-574-3550.
Photos courtesy of Walnut Street Theatre
Kelli Curtin is editor and writer for theatresensation.com. In addition, she is a contributor for the online site broadwayworld.com and is a freelance writer. Kelli is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on twitter @theatrescribe and on Facebook/theatresensation.