Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Pacey Hitchcock adaptation gets us where we want to go

Pacey Hitchcock adaptation gets us where we want to go

The Lady Vanishes | Theatre Royal Windsor | Wednesday, January 9

A TALE of English and Americans abroad, Roy Marsden’s production of The Lady Vanishes is an adaptation by Anthony Lampard of the Hitchcock film of 1938.

The narrative opens with an Austrian station scene, with all its comings and goings as travellers with luggage hurry to board trains across Europe.

The English-speaking passengers have an unshakeable expectation that the journey will go well, but there are rumours of war, the European scene is volatile and events take an unpredictable turn.

At the centre of the play’s emotional field is the confusion and distress felt by socialite Iris (Lorna Fitzgerald) following the inexplicable disappearance of a lady passenger, Miss Froy (Juliet Mills).

No other passenger seems able to corroborate Iris’s account and her experience is increasingly medicalised in order to explain it away.

Iris is considered to be insane or, at best, concussed. But, as Iris, suspects, there is intrigue and villainy behind the mystery and she persists with her quest.

Lorna Fitzgerald is very convincing as the excitable Iris, aided and abetted with puppyish enthusiasm by Matt Barber as Max.

The rest of the cast deliver the dialogue and the action with great brio. There is plenty of rough and tumble, culminating in a full-on shootout.

In contrast to the sinister trickery and threat, Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon provide chuckles as the well-meaning, clownish cricket enthusiasts, Charters and Caldicott. Morgan Large’s set design is a visual delight. A continental railway station is atmospherically evoked. Scenes on the train make use of sliding screens to open and close on the various compartments and the secrets they contain.

Costumes are the epitome of Thirties style, not least the significant tweed suit worn by Miss Froy, while the lighting and incidental music add an extra frisson to the fast-paced plot.

The tetchy Iris learns that caring about others and taking a few risks is preferable to the pampered but empty way of life she has known previously.

The Lady Vanishes carries the audience along through an entertaining romp with elements of thriller, melodrama, comedy and romance.

Until Saturday.

Susan Creed

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