Tag Archives: Patricia Highsmith

REVIEW: Strangers on a Train – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

A chance meeting on a train introduces Charles Bruno and Guy Haines, two wildly different men but with problems in common. As the journey progresses, a hypothetical plan is hatched between the pair: what if Bruno kills Haines unfaithful wife in return for Haines bumping off Bruno’s much-loathed father? When Bruno follows through on his side of the imagined bargain, Haines is subjected to stalking, intimidation and blackmail.

Mistress of mystery Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel, Strangers on a Train was an instant hit on publication, with the heavily adapted Alfred Hitchcock classic film noir following quickly on its heels one year later. Good old-fashioned thrillers, once so prevalent on the theatrical landscape, are woefully few and far between, so it’s refreshing to see this classic chiller on stage. Craig Warner’s stage adaptation, (which had a run in the West End under the filmic direction of Robert Allan Ackerman in 2013 with a star-studded cast and a hugely impressive set) has been given a more perfunctory treatment here. Though it must be said it is undoubtedly simplified by necessity in order to tour the UK.

Images of the Hitchcock movie are seared on the memory: the tennis match with its subtle homosexual undertones; the creepily gripping murder of Haines’ first wife reflected in the eyeglasses and the suspenseful finale. Unfortunately, under the direction of Anthony Banks, there’s an overall sluggishness that fails to ratchet up the tension sufficiently, and large parts of the action plod. At two hours 25 minutes, it’s a bit of an endurance test.

The directorial choices for the actors are also questionable at times. Populated by familiar TV faces, some emerge more convincingly than others: Coronation Street’s Chris Harper has the lion’s share of the dialogue and for the most part delivers a fully three-dimensional characterisation of Bruno however, his Tennessee Williams-like relationship with his louche mother does teeter too close to parody for comfort and the most emotional moments can read as too manic. Call the Midwife’s Jack Ashton’s delivers a coldly unemotional turn as Haines, failing to convey the character’s emotional descent: the words come out, the acting doesn’t convince. Hannah Tointon, best known for Mr. Selfridge, has a slim theatrical CV and it shows, while her role as Haines’ new wife is hideously underdeveloped, her delivery is quite frankly unforgivable, calling to mind the enthusiastic, but amateur thespian. Another crucial flaw in the proceeding is that both murders take place off-stage and any chance at thrills and chills are passed over.

David Woodhead’s set design comprises a series of sliding panels and projections and while functional and at times clever, suffers in scale. Many locations are confined to a tiny box on the main frame of the set. It does though evoke Edward Hopper’s classic paintings of mid-century American life, especially when coupled with Howard Hudson’s atmospheric lighting design.

This much-anticipated thriller fails to live up to its potential and ultimately there are too many flaws to make it truly enjoyable.

‘This review was originally published at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/strangers-on-a-train-theatre-royal-glasgow/

 

 

REVIEW: Strangers on a Train – Gielgud Theatre, London

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel (followed in 1951 by the radically adapted Alfred Hitchcock film version) Craig Warner (writer) and Robert Allan Ackerman (director) have returned to Highsmith’s original source material for this stage version of Strangers on a Train at the Gielgud Theatre in London.

Strangers-on-trainAfter a chance meeting on a train, up and coming young architect Guy Haines (Laurence Fox) and flamboyant playboy Charles Bruno (Jack Huston) make an unlikely bargain which will change both of their lives forever.

Haines, saddled with a promiscuous wife from a disastrous teenage marriage and pursuing a new love, in the form of a high society heiress, meets Charles Bruno, Bruno, directionless and in want of his expected inheritance from his much-hated father, hits upon the perfect solution to their woes. Each will rid the other of their ‘problem’.

Charles carries out his side of the ‘bargain’ but Guy begins to lose his resolve, resulting in a terrifying level of psychological pressure from the increasingly unstable Charles, culminating in a suspenseful and shocking denouement.

10341_show_landscape_large_06Tim Goodchild’s ingenious revolving set is a star in itself, rendered entirely in black and white and shades of grey, complemented by projections and an atmospheric Hitchcock-like soundtrack, it is stunning, moving swiftly between a mind-boggling amount of changes.

10341_show_landscape_large_07Huston is superb as Bruno, charming and chilling in equal measure, he appears entirely at home on stage. His increasingly claustrophobic and unhinged portrayal is fascinating with its minutely detailed mannerisms and the uncomfortable, almost incestuous relationship with his fading southern belle mother (Imogen Stubbs, giving her best Tennessee Williams) is grippingly played. Fox is marginally less convincing but his geeky, uptight Guy comes into his own in the second act as he increasingly loses control of his life.

204296_2_previewThe undercurrent of homosexuality, only hinted at in the novel is played up to good effect here. Suspenseful throughout with some nerve-shredding moments, there’s much black humour in this noir production. Fast-paced and visually striking and with a genuinely unexpected and shocking final scene, this filmic production is a welcome addition to the West End. There’s a need for more classy and mature thrillers onstage, as evidenced by the packed house here – producers take note.

strangers on a train