In a screen-to-stage adaptation that strikes a balance between thriller and comedy, making it most suitable to a Summer theatre escapade, the Classic Thriller Theatre Company tackles Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes. It is a good fit for the stage, as most of the plot, revolving around the unexplained disappearance of an apparently ordinary British governess, takes place within the contained space of a train, allowing a smooth translation without too many intrusive changes of scenery. The set designs match the mixed feeling of quaint and oppressive that is the general mood of the whole work, with the long shadow of Nazi uniforms projected even over the most quick-witted comedic scenes.
The mix of tones is nonetheless a saving grace for this production; the comedy and the tension balance each other, and that is what makes most of the play successful, managing to draw sincere laughter from its audience while keeping it engaged with the mystery at hand. The sole exception to this, perhaps, is an overlong gunfight scene replete with unnecessarily loud gunshot effects, to the point of detracting from the ability to follow what is happening on stage at a pivotal moment of the plot – but this is overall a minor problem, and as a whole the work remains solid and appealing. This is also thanks to some strong performances, particularly from Juliet Mills as Miss Froy and Matt Barber as Max. The comedic relief provided by Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon as Charters and Caldicott must also be mentioned, as there is a distinct feeling that the two are greatly enjoying their parts, something that is also a welcome extra to comedic sections.
The production will probably have the most impact for those who have not already seen the film, as for the first half at least it is genuinely difficult to predict where the story will go, or what the solution to the riddle is, and foreknowledge of the resolution might take away the additional element of engagement provided by not knowing. But even for those who are already familiar with the plot, a charming cast and a well-planned stage presence make The Lady Vanishes an entertaining theatre night in the company of a deceptively simple, and honestly engaging, mystery.
Until July 20