There’s an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt… but not in this case. This super stylish production of the very popular and best selling Dan Brown novel and equally successful film is a gripping live realisation of something that for one I thought impossible.

Stripped back to key plot moments, divested of high speed car chases and action film thrillers (and fillers), this staged version moves along at a pace. In fact the first scene delivers so much information that at times it is slightly garbled and dizzying. But once that is done the action moves forward with captivating ease.

The staging is both simplistic and yet complex. The use of computer generated and video imagery is perhaps the best I have ever experienced and the use of classic physical theatre techniques works beautifully. And the whole is delivered with a precision that is more than impressive.

Nigel Harman is excellent and very believable as the shy, claustrophobic academic Robert Langdon, and without that Hollywood pressure the character is gently un-heroic. Hannah Rose Caton is equally good as Sophie Neveu and Joshua Lacey is disturbing present as the sinister and deluded Silas. Danny John-Jules is rather effete as Sir Leigh Teabing when he first appears but this works well as his real presence in the story emerges. The rest of the ensemble are impressive as they take on multiple roles and the clever device employed by costume designer David Woodhead of having every member of the cast wearing a hooded top is brilliant. Andrzej Goulding’s set is truly impressive and beautifully lit by Lizzie Powell and Luke Sheppard has directed with skill.

It could all so easily have gone wrong, but Rachel Wagastaff and Duncan Abel have taken that massive novel and delivered something that works and works well.

Familiarity, well in some ways it helped, and there is no getting away from that, but there remained a sense of mystery and surprise. I thought that the final message, that Sophie is who she is, no spoilers here, was rather underplayed, perhaps intentionally. But overall this is an extraordinary piece of work.

Andrew Kay

Theatre Royal Brighton

15 March

Rating: ★★★★☆

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