Talking Theatre: Lorna Fitzgerald Discusses Stage Adaptation of The Lady Vanishes

A new stage adaptation of the much-loved Alfred Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes comes to Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.

Socialite Iris is travelling home to England on the train when an accident introduces her to the mild-mannered Miss Froy. After her travelling companion suddenly disappears, Iris is perplexed to find that all the other passengers deny ever having seen her. 

Playing Iris is the former EastEnders star Lorna Fitzgerald who discusses the production.

What grabbed you about the chance to star in The Lady Vanishes?

I had seen the film, because my Nan is a huge Hitchcock fan. When I read the script, I loved it! So I went for an audition and I was just lucky enough to get the part.

Iris such a great character and it’s such a good story that I couldn’t not take it. And even though it is a mystery, it’s also very funny.

What is it about?

A group of English passengers have been turfed off a train in Austria because there’s been a hold up with an avalanche. Iris befriends a lady called Miss Froy. She falls asleep, and when she wakes up, Miss Froy is nowhere to be found. Everyone denies having seen Miss Froy, even though Iris has seen them interact with her. The play follows how that unravels and how, and if, you get to find Miss Froy. It’s such a fantastic mystery.

What’s Iris like?

She’s great. She’s a socialite; that’s very apparent when you first see her. She likes a good time. As the play goes on, I think you see a more sincere side to her with her genuine care for Miss Froy and the desire to get to the bottom of what’s happening.

Juliet Mills plays Miss Froy. What’s she like to work with?

Juliet is a legend. She’s so sweet and she’s such a good actress. I’ve just been observing her.

A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.

A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.

The story is best known as a Hitchcock film. What does performing it on stage bring to the experience?

It’s a huge film, so we have very big shoes to fill. The script is faithful to the movie, which I think you can appreciate when you watch it, but at the same time, it’s a very physical play, which I think is special when you see it on a stage because you’re right there, involved in the action.

Are you excited about touring the production around the UK?

I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve never done it before. I think seeing a bit of the country will be great and performing to different audience every week will keep it really fresh and exciting.

Are you going to take anything in particular with you to help you feel at home?

I’m an over-packer, but not with sentimental things. I’ll have a lot of clothes and a lot of make-up that I’ll never use and it’ll just end up sitting there. But I guarantee if I didn’t bring it I’d need it.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

I am looking forward to absolutely everywhere. All these places that I’ve never really explored; I’m just looking forward to seeing them. I’m very lucky.

You were in EastEnders for 12 years, having started at the age of 10. How was growing up in Walford?

I’m sure it was unique, but I don’t know anything different. I just loved doing it. I love acting, so getting to do that every week growing up it was just great. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

It didn’t seem that unusual. I still went to school. I had a tutor they provided. I didn’t feel I missed out on anything, but I also got to do this amazing thing of acting three or four times a week. They definitely look after you, but it also feels like you don’t miss out on what your friends are doing either.

A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.

A scene from The Lady Vanishes which plays Cardiff’s New Theatre from July 16-20.

This is the third stage production you’ve done since leaving the show. Was that a deliberate choice?

Definitely. I really wanted to do something that I’d never done before. I absolutely love theatre and thought I’d like to carry on with it.

How did you find the transition to performing for the stage?

It was a huge change, but the scariest thing was having a brand-new character. If you play a character for 12 years you know all the backstory. You know what you’ve done for the past 12 years as well. Getting a brand-new character was just completely new to me but really exciting.

In an age of having everything ‘on demand’, what’s special about seeing a performance at the theatre?

If someone’s performing right in front of you, it’s a much more involved experience. There is nothing quite like it.

What can audiences expect from The Lady Vanishes?

I think they can expect lots of mystery and a good laugh.

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