Based on the film directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Sidney Gilliat and Frank Laudner
Adapter: Anthony Lampard
Director: Roy Marsden
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
The Lady Vanishes is presented by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company. The name of the company should be a clue of what to expect – classic thrillers. Sadly it appears that the company haven’t noticed what their name is, and with this production of The Lady Vanishes have overplayed the comedy of the film at the expense of the thriller.
It opens with a train delayed somewhere in Austria because of an avalanche, or as the foreign rail guard calls it, a valansh. The two English toffs he speaks to cannot understand what he means but come over as if they are absorbing the spirit of the Thompson Twins from Tin Tin in the opening exchanges. The elements of dark tension that should be evident, given that the play is set during the Second World War with Nazi emblems decorating the stage, are missing. Instead we get a succession of lightweight characters including a would be judge and his mistress who all seem more closely modelled on Ealing Comedies than classic thrillers.
As the train gets moving and the action switches to inside it, Iris a young lady travelling to England to meet her fiancée, strikes up a conversation with Miss Froy, a former Governess, that seems to be noticed by everyone, but when Miss Froy disappears no one claims to have seen her. Has the lady vanished or was she just a product of Iris’ imagination? We know the answer, so the questions become why has the lady vanished and who is behind her disappearance?
The inciting incident of Miss Froy’s disappearance takes a long time to happen and the first act treads a lot of water before it does. Afterwards it picks up the pace and by the end there is enough tension to make you believe that the comedy is going to play a far smaller part in the second act as the mystery unfolds.
It’s a false hope. The second act opens promisingly enough, but the more outlandish parts of the movie plot are overplayed. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be a full on farce or hold on to some semblance of being a thriller, as Iris and Max, the one person on the train who always believe her, try to discover where Miss Froy is and to prove their theories about her disappearance. Once the case is solved, the conclusion is drawn out beyond the point of interest.
The play has a strong cast who all play their roles as directed, making the play a relatively enjoyable and inoffensive piece of theatre that draws a fairly consistent flow of laughs from both the action and the dialogue. The problem is that it never manages to illicit the sort of response that is the mark of a classic thriller.
Runs until 23 February 2019 then touring | Image: Contributed