The opening sequence of this adaptation of the 1939 Hitchcock film produces atmosphere in its very best incarnation; the stage was initially transformed into a gloomy Austrian railway station festooned with the visual trappings of the Third Reich, and a cast of perplexed travelling companions began to assemble.
Having to await a train delayed by an avalanche, the characters all displayed stereotypical “Britishness” at their core: a pair of cricket mad gentlemen; a mis-matched middle age couple embroiled in a rather sordid affair; an aging spinster who makes her living as a governess; a handsome and resourceful “man about town” and a young lady whose cut glass accent and worldly weary cynicism had provoked an advantageous engagement to a well-heeled aristocrat.
Thus the scene is set, and the personalities are all quite clearly sketched as we proceed to the second Act, where the railway carriages are occupied on what amounts to a revolving door basis, and all of pre-World War II social and political machinations are given an airing.
The rest of the rather sketchy story is played out aboard the train, with slick and effective staging being moved effortlessly to represent the dining car, the baggage hold and the companionway between them all. The sense of train travel was really well evoked by a sound track and the simple device of the players swaying back and forth, although this did have the surprising effect of making me feel a little nauseous at times!
Having received a bump to the head, Miss Henderson is perplexed by the seeming disappearance of her governess acquaintance, Miss Froy, and is determined to prove her existence despite the denials of all around her. She enlists the rather laconic help of man about town Max, and they set out to solve the mystery, setting in motion a very frantic and incredibly well choreographed chain of events. This included a three person brawl, a very loud and continual exchange of gunfire (which made me jump every time the gun went off!), the dramatic death of the philandering barrister, and a denouement involving the re-appearance of the redoubtable Miss Froy.
Naturally, I will not share the nuances of this ending… I want you all to rush off and book tickets for the remaining nights of the play!
The Classic Thriller Theatre Company has produced a faultless evocation of a by gone age and the cast is outstanding
It’s a thumbs up to the production, the Playhouse and the discerning audience, who only have until Saturday to enjoy it… you have been warned!!
The Lady Vanishes plays at the Playhouse, Weston until Saturday 14th September