This ambitious production from renowned producer Bill Kenwright takes its name directly from the Alfred Hitchcock film on which it is closely based. In the wrong hands, this play could go horribly as its source material is regarded in some quarters as one of the finest films Hitchcock made before decamping to the United States. Thanks to a tight script, stellar cast, expert direction and an ingenious set design, justice is done to the original film and the two hours it is on for, absolutely flies by.
Set during the build up to World War 2 in an Austria annexed by Nazi Germany, The Lady Vanishes is a production brimming with suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat after a slow build up that establish the characters with the audience. Without giving too much away, a young woman called Iris is travelling back to England ahead of a wedding. While she, and her fellow passengers are briefly stranded at a train station platform due to an avalanche, she suffers a bump to the head. Suffering from minor concussion, she is helped onto the train and looked after by an older woman called Miss Froy (played by Juliet Mills – sister of Hayley) who mysteriously disappears on the train while Iris is sleeping and before the train passes across the Austrian border into Switzerland. When Iris, played with gusto by Lorna Fitzgerald who found fame as Abi Branning in EastEnders, enquires about Miss Froy’s whereabouts, everyone denies seeing her. Was Miss Froy a figment of her imagination or is there something more sinister afoot?
After a leisurely beginning to set the tone and context of the play, the tension is ratcheted up in this production notch by notch until it reaches a loud and startling denouement that had much of the audience jumping out of their seats, repeatedly. All along the way, the revelations in this conspiracy thriller come thick and fast to keep everyone guessing about the facts of the mystery. Writers Sydney Gilliat and Frank Launder deserve praise for striking a good balance between creating suspense and a little light humour every now and then.
For fans of classic thrillers, this show comes with an enthusiastic recommendation.
The Lady Vanishes is on at the New Theatre until Saturday July 20th