ANY body of work that has iconic director Alfred Hitchcock’s name attached to it, is a must for mystery lovers.
The arrival of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes at The Belgrade Theatre this week therefore, had been much anticipated.
Based on the 1938 Hitchcock classic – ranked one of the Best British films of all time -the play takes place on a train travelling from Vienna to Zurich, where an English Socialite Iris Henderson discovers that an elderly travelling companion who befriended her at the station, has disappeared while she was sleeping.
Asking around about the missing lady, Iris is bewildered to find that all of her fellow passengers deny ever having seen her. The only person she can persuade to help her is a young musician named Max.
Iris is left to get to the bottom of what nefarious acts have been going on, with the help of Max (Matt Barber), a young man whom she outwardly detests.
Thrilling it is, Hitchcockian it is – but there are also lighter moments that relieve the tension – with a cast chock full of European caricatures, from the elderly British governess Miss Froy (Gwen Taylor), carefree young socialite (Scarlett Archer) and English cricket-obsessed toffs (Denis Lill and Bean Nealon) through to the humourless German soldier (Joe Reisig) and demonstrative Italian magician (Martin Carroll).
I can’t help but wonder if, with the passage of time, the humour plays a bigger role in the 21st century reincarnation of this story. And Lill and Nealon were central to that.
The show’s narrative can feel like its plodding a bit at times, and you sense it takes a while to really get going. But I’m undecided as to whether this is simply more to do with the Hitchcock style. Its transition to stage works well on the whole, but I do admit to leaving the theatre at the end of the night feeling a tad confused about the plot, not helped by the many scenes that take place off the train which are merely described to us. (Of course this could be just me. I am, after all, one of those annoying people who is constantly asking questions to keep up with TV plot twists!)
But the play is elevated by a capable cast – and a livelier second act.
There’s intrigue by the bucket load and you won’t go home disappointed with producer Bill Kenwright’s latest offering.
Despite being a Hitchcock fan, somehow this film had passed me by so I wasn’t able to draw comparisons (and maybe it’s not fair to do so.). But if, unlike me, you are familiar with story, I advise you book your ticket with an open mind. Recreating Hitchcock on stage presents its own challenges but, in the main part, I would say it succeeds. It was certainly well enough received by last night’s Belgrade audience.
Personally, I’d sum up the experience as one I enjoyed, but not one I’d necessarily rush to repeat.
The Lady Vanishes plays at The Belgrade Theatre until Saturday, 28th September. Tickets are available to book now by calling the box office on 02476 553055 or by visiting www.belgrade.co.uk