Sunday, 18 February 2018

REVIEW: Strangers On A Train at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Strangers On A Train is based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith and made world famous by the classic Alfred Hitchcock film. A fateful encounter takes place between two men, Guy Haines and Charles Bruno, in the dining carriage of a train crossing America. Guy is the successful businessman with a nagging jealousy; Charles is the charming, calculating, enigmatic chancer with a dark secret. A daring and dangerous plan develops from this casual conversation setting in motion a chain of events that will change the two men’s lives forever.

Heading up a small but talented cast of Chris Harper who executes the character of wily Bruno perfectly. His performance is animated and mesmerising without ever turning over the top, and acts as the perfect foil for Jack Ashton’s more subdued and restrained Guy Haines. There seemed to be genuine chemistry between all the actors and Harper’s performance was a particular highlight. 

Bruno’s relationships with those he met were unpredictable but wholly believable and engaging; with special mention going to the scenes between Charles and his mother Elsie. Harper and Helen Anderson worked together with real ease and their relationship bought a new dynamic to the character of Charles. Harper also had great stage presence with John Middleton who was strong and commanding as private detective Arthur. 

Had the show not had such a talented actor in the role of Charles, this production may have struggled to get going. Harper’s performance really drove the show on and took the other characters along with him. Very impressive stuff indeed.

David Woodhead’s design was slick and fluid; switching effortlessly between
different locations such as train carriage, exterior house, interior and bedrooms. Utilising moving parts and projections, this kept the pace of the show flowing and the storytelling tight. The only limitations of this set design was early in act one where those on one side of the audience couldn’t see Elsie Bruno’s bedroom (and I imagine the same problem when the action switched to the other side!) This is perhaps a limitation with touring and different sight lines in each venue but this was a shame as the action on stage deserved your full attention.

This was a production that allowed the story to be told and used its strong cast to tell it. It didn’t need a flurry of special effects and bold soundtrack; it just kept it simple and it packed a punch in doing so.

Review by Andy Edmeads 

Rating: ★★★★
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