Christie had been pleased with the book, stating in her autobiography "I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I made of it." The book was very well received upon publication and soon after Christie received a request from Reginald Simpson to be allowed to dramatise it. Christie refused as she relished the challenge herself although she was intermittently some two years in carrying out the task. She knew the ending would have to be changed as all of the characters die in the book and therefore "I must make two of the characters innocent, to be reunited at the end and come safe out of the ordeal." The original nursery rhyme on which the book was based had an alternative ending of ...
"He got married and then there were none"
... which allowed Christie to portray a different conclusion on stage.
After the play had been written, most people she discussed it with considered it impossible to produce. She received some encouragement from Charles Cochrane but he was unable to find financial backers. Finally, Bertie Mayer who had produced the 1928 play Alibi agreed to stage it.
After a try-out at the Wimbledon Theatre starting on 20 September 1943, the play opened in the West End at the St James's Theatre on 17 November. It gained good reviews and ran for 260 performances until 24 February 1944 when the theatre was bombed. It then transferred to the Cambridge Theatre opening on 29 February and running at that venue until 6 May. It then transferred back to the restored St James' on 9 May and finally closed on 1 July.
Although she did not feel it to be her best play, Christie did declare it was her best piece of "craftsmanship". She also considered it to be the play which formally started her career as a playwright, despite the success of Black Coffee in 1930.
The scene of the play is the living-room of the house on Indian Island (Note: Nigger Island in the 1943 UK production), off the coast of Devon. The time – the present.
ACT IAn evening in August
ACT IIScene 1 – The following morning
Scene 2 – The same day. Afternoon
ACT IIIScene 1 – The same day. Evening
Scene 2 – The following morning
Ivor Brown reviewed the play in The Observer's issue of 21 November 1943 when he said, "Miss Agatha Christie does not stint things. Like Hotspur, who could kill six dozen Scots at breakfast, complain of his quiet life, and then ask for work, she is not one to be concerned about a mere singleton corpse. But she can add quality to quantity in her domestic morgue. In Ten Little Niggers she shows an intense ingenuity in adapting that very lethal rhyme (so oddly deemed a nursery matter) to modern conditions." Mr. Brown concluded that Henrietta Watson's portrayal of Emily Brent was, "the most authentic member of a house party with 'no future in it.' as the airmen say. That gently lugubrious phrase certainly does not hold of the play."
Director: Irene Hentschel
Decor by: Clifford Pember
William Murray played Rogers
Reginald Barlow played Narracott
Hilda Bruce-Potter played Mrs Rogers
Linden Travers played Vera Claythorne
Terence de Marney played Philip Lombard
Michael Blake played Anthony Marston
Percy Walsh played William Blore
Eric Cowley played General MacKenzie
Henrietta Watson played Emily Brent
Allan Jeayes played Sir Lawrence Wargarve
Gwyn Nicholls played Dr Armstrong
A production in New York opened at the Broadhurst Theatre under the title Ten Little Indians on 27 June 1944. On 6 January 1945, it transferred to the Plymouth Theatre where it ran from 9 January until 30 June 1945. The total run on Broadway was 426 performances.
Director: Albert de Courville
Neil Fitzgerald as Rogers
Georgia Harvey as Mrs. Rogers
Halliwell Hobbes as Sir Lawrence Wargrave
Nicholas Joy as General MacKenzie
Anthony Kemble Cooper as Anthony Marston
Claudia Morgan as Vera Claythorne
Patrick O'Connor as Fred Narracott
James Patrick O'Malley as William Blore
Michael Whalen as Philip Lombard
Estelle Winwood as Emily Brent
Harry Worth as Dr. Armstrong
The play was first published by Samuel French Ltd as a paperback in 1944. It was first published in hardback in The Mousetrap and Other Plays by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1978 (ISBN 0-396-07631-9) and in the UK by Harper Collins in 1993 (ISBN 0-00-224344-X).
At some point after the end of the Second World War, a survivor of Buchenwald concentration camp contacted Christie and told her that the inmates had staged their own production there, undoubtedly writing their own script as they would not have had access to the Christie version. Christie was told that they found that it had "sustained them".
In November 2007, Lakota East High School in West Chester, OH, was set to perform the play but plans were cancelled after the NAACP protested about the production because of the original title of the novel. Lakota East High School officials subsequently revised their plans and decided to perform the play on 29 November.
On 14 October 2005 a new version of play, written by Kevin Elyot and directed by Steven Pimlott opened at the Gielgud Theatre in London. For this version, Elyot returned to the book version of the story and restored the original ending where both Vera and Lombard die and Wargrave commits suicide. The version of the rhyme and island name used was "Ten Little Soldiers" and "Soldier Island" as per current printings of the novel. Despite very positive reviews, the play closed on 14 January 2006.