The current UK tour of The Classic Thriller Theatre Company’s stage adaptation of The Lady Vanishes steamed into Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening.
Based on the Alfred Hitchcock film written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, which in turn was inspired by Ethel Lina White’s 1936 novel, The Wheel Spins, Bill Kenwright’s new stage production adapted by Antony Lampard retains all the thrills and adventure of the original film, but in living colour!
Socialite Iris is travelling home to England from the “Gasthof Petrus” inn in the country of Bandrika 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.
With the help of urbane musician Max, Iris turns detective and together they become drawn into a complex web of European intrigue as they try to solve the mystery of why the lady vanished.
The Lady Vanishes features all the hallmarks of a classic thriller, an underdog heroine whom no-one believes, a threat in the shape of the Nazi’s, a race against time to find a missing person, pace and the familiar surroundings of a train.
Roy Marsden’s strong direction keeps the story moving as the train journey carries the characters towards Switzerland. The set itself complete with compartments, a restaurant area and whistling steam funnels creates all the right atmosphere for the unfolding drama.
Juliet Mills heads the cast, bringing an air of pure Britishness with her portrayal of Miss Froy, a character that builds up throughout the story to become the centrepiece of the action. Miss Mills delivers much in the way of strength and bravery in the face of a formidable enemy.
Lorna Fitzgerald brings definition to the plucky, courageous, socialite, Iris. gaining sympathy from the audience as she tries to convince fellow passengers that her concerns about Miss Froy’s disappearance are genuine.
Matt Barber is the unlikely hero of the piece, Max, who in typical Hitchcockian mode, spends much of the story attempting to overcome his dislike for the heroine in order to help her gain some sense of the situation. Mr Barber features prominently in some of the productions major action scenes including a sword fight and a gun battle.
Maxwell Caulfield also features as the approachable Doctor Hartz and keeps the audience guessing about his part of the story, including my daughter. This was her first experience of The Lady Vanishes and a genuine twist in the tale thanks to Mr Caulfield’s brilliant performance!
Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon add some underlying comedy to the dramatic tension as Charters and Caldicott, two passengers who are desperate to get news from England with regards the Test Match results. The pair bring much fun to their scenes with some brilliant comedy timing.
Combining edge of the seat theatre action with all the thrills of a Hitchcock movie, this splendid production of The Lady Vanishes continues its run at Cardiff’s New Theatre until July 20, 2019. Don’t miss the journey!