11:51AM, Friday 11 January 2019
A train station, steam, bustle, porters and piles of suitcases, the passengers look bandbox smart but swastika flags hang down.
The Lady Vanishes begins in ‘one of Europe’s undiscovered corners’ though it seems the Nazis have found it.
An avalanche halts a Zurich-bound train and the frustrated passengers swirl and collide at the station.
There are cricket-mad chums Charters and Caldicott, lawyer Eric and his mistress Margaret trying to keep a low profile, an affable Italian, a stern Nazi officer and outspoken, practical Max who clashes with young socialite Iris Henderson – returning to England to marry a lord.
And then there’s Miss Froy – or is there?
Adapted from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film, this stage version brings the train-set drama to rollicking life.
Iris (played with spirit by Lorna Fitzgerald) wakes up to find kindly Miss Froy (a serene Juliet Mills) gone from their compartment, she starts to doubt her own sanity.
Dr Hartz (Maxwell Caulfield) blames a blow to the head. Is Iris confused or has the lady vanished?
The tension builds as the other passengers deny seeing the lady in tweeds, but helped by Max (Matt Barber), she tries to find out.
There are enjoyable characters, mysterious exchanges and sub plots for the audience to ponder as well as lots of silly mid-off fun with Charters and Caldicott (played with easy charm by Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon) desperate to return to England in time for a test match.
The actors bring energy, humour and tension – and a fair bit of physicality – to the action, directed with style by Roy Marsden
And the set, designed by Morgan Large, is superb, you really feel drawn in to the station, the train interior, the compartments with their sliding doors and the last stunning scene at the terminus where shadows looming above steam from the train.
A first-class thriller, beautifully expressed.
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