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Belgrade Theatre review: The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes, Belgrade Theatre, to Sept 28.

Based on the 1938 Hitchcock film of the same name, this stage adaptation by Bill Kenwright’s Thriller Theatre Company, while unapologetically old fashioned, is also stylish, entertaining, funny, pacey - and very well performed. The plot centres on young and well-to-do Iris (Scarlett Archer of Call the Midwife fame), whose travelling companion Miss Froy (BAFTA-nominated Gwen Taylor), mysteriously disappears on a train travelling across Europe. It is 1938 and the chilling spectre of Nazism is beginning to be felt with jack-booted soldiers barking out orders. Assisting Iris as she turns detective to find Miss Froy, is the hapless Max (an energetic performance from Nicholas Audsley, best known as the Duke of Monmouth in the TV series Victoria).

The development of Iris and Max’s relationship is handled well, and light relief is provided by the cricket-mad duo Charters and Caldicott (Denis Lill and Ben Nealon) and by Eric and Margaret (Mark Wynter and Rosie Thomson) returning to their spouses after a little sojourn in Austria. “My husband thinks I’m on holiday with his Mum in Margate!”. Andrew Lancel (Gwen Taylor’s son in Coronation Street) is most realistic as the creepy Dr Hartz. In adapting the film for the stage, Antony Lampard has preserved the style and tone of the original. The design effectively captures the feel of a bygone era. Morgan Large’s set cleverly functions as both the exterior and interior of a train, making scene changes speedy and unobtrusive.

Sliding doors mask secrets contained within compartments and later allow truths to be dramatically revealed. A sense of hidden danger is enhanced by the shadows cast by Charlie Morgan Jones’ lighting design And a number of well-choreographed fight scenes (by Richard Leggett) provide welcome bursts of action as the story reaches its exhilarating denouement.

It all makes for a very entertaining evening at the Belgrade.

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