Strangers On A Train – June 2006

Experience: 6/10

By Craig Warner, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Directed by Robin Herford

Venue: Theatre Royal, Brighton

Date: Wednesday 28th June 2006

          Interesting production, this. I haven’t read the book, but this play must be closer to the novel than the movie version. Same start – two strangers meeting on a train, leading to murder and mayhem. Much more psychological than the Hitchcock, and in some ways much darker, less sensational.

Obviously, this had to work on the stage, so forget seeing the funfair. A lot had to be reported rather than shown. And there were lots of pauses while the sets were trundled on and off stage. Even so, this was pretty tightly scripted – a study of insanity and how it could entrap and almost destroy a relatively normal human being. In the end, Guy Haines, the architect who is drawn into Charles Bruno’s deadly plan, is saved by the love of a morally ambiguous woman. She tells him she doesn’t love him for his goodness, which begs the question what does she love him for then? At one point, it seemed the easiest thing would be for Guy and his new bride (Charlie boy bumped off the original) to murder Charlie as he hides under their roof, and dispose of the body, but we had a bit further to go, and in the end Charlie tops himself with Guy’s gun, the one used to kill Charlie’s father and which was discarded in the woods. A relief in many ways, especially as the investigator, one Arthur Gerard (played by Colin Baker), had decided to let the matter drop, even though he pretty much knew the whole story.

The emotional and mental journey was an interesting one, with lots of moral ambiguity to challenge the audience’s beliefs. Did good triumph in the end? And what of the lives of Guy and Anne afterwards – he’d been so stricken with guilt before he’d killed Charlie’s dad, how would he carry on now? Lots to think about.

Good performances all round, especially the two leads – Alex Ferns as Charles Bruno, nicely psychotic, suave and assured at the start, disintegrating into twitchy insanity by the end, and Will Thorp as Guy Haines, a straightforward guy who gets caught up in a nightmare he can’t handle until he finally tells all (in print) to his new wife.

© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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