Friday, February 28

The Lady Vanishes

- November 5, 2019

The curtain goes up on a breathtaking vision of a late 1930s European station, out of the smoke and steam emerge a cast of potential suspects and no doubt a victim. There are station masters, porters, passengers and Nazi officials. It’s an impressive start, a stunning set beautifully lit and the mood set.

I would love to report that the mood is maintained, and in part it is by the cast who deliver classic Agatha Christie not only in period regarding time and place but also in the manner in which they deliver the story. There are no concessions to modern theatrical styling or direction, this is performed as if lifted directly from the time in which it was written. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, in many ways it is admirable and it is very entertaining.

But was the form of entertainment I experienced the intention of the director? I suspect not, after all the marketing promotes this as a classic thriller. The reality is that this turns out to be rather a jolly spoof of the genre, stylish yes, thrilling – in part maybe, but above all it is funny.

Other companies have done the same, producing reverential comedic versions of classic thrillers and dramas, think Brief Encounter and The Thirty-nine Steps, both much praised for their witty charm.

This could be the same, should perhaps be the same – and the cast do a very fine job of keeping straight faces throughout. And this said few people left the theatre having not enjoyed the evening.

I left feeling in part entertained but also let down. That opening scene was so beautifully realised and lit that what followed paled in comparison. The set, clever as it was, also had very poor sight lines, the lighting was flat, never matching that opening moment, and the shift from the compartments to the dining car was clumsy and unrealistic. Carrying tables on and off with such frequency very soon became comic.

All in all a fun evening, maybe for the wrong reasons, and one has to feel that the team behind this need to make their minds up about what it is they wish to achieve.

Theatre Royal Brighton

4 November

Andrew Kay Rating: ★★★

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