Review: The Lady Vanishes

January 22, 2019 by Ray Morgan

As a child I loved both the original Hitchcock version and latter-day Angela Lansbury remake of the mystery 'The Lady Vanishes'. It's a brilliant premise: a young socialite is travelling home to England from Austria in the run-up to the Second World War, and meets an intriguing older woman on the train called Miss Froy. They take tea together and Miss Froy helps Iris after she suffers a bump on the head... but suddenly Miss Froy disappears and the other passengers deny ever having seen her. 

What follows is a highly mysterious story, when Iris and her new friend Max become amateur sleuths to solve the case of the missing Miss Froy. I was very curious to see how this story - set on board a train - would translate to the stage. 

The stage sets at the Palace Theatre for this production were very impressive. The opening setting of a busy train station was utterly believable via the backdrop and looming, ominous swastikas and Nazi guards. The use of sound effects of the trains and dry ice as steam instantly gave a sense of place. When the train scenes began, we were instantly given Hogwarts-Express-style carriages that worked perfectly as miniature sets in themselves, with seamless stage-hand work bringing tables and chairs to denote the dining car on several occasions. Special mention goes to the actors who swayed during their scenes for the whole play; what with that and the blinking 'train' lights, you utterly believed they were on a moving train. 

Lorna Fitzgerald's Iris and Matt Barber's Max fizzed with youthful exuberance and the chemistry between them as they go from sparring enemies to a detective duo absolutely crackled on stage. Juliet Mills' Miss Froy is also a revelation - at first seeming vulnerable and dotty but eventually becoming a much more complex character than we originally thought. 

There's mystery, but also a lot of humour, from the pair of cricket enthusiasts (and their amusing sugar cube scene) to nuns in heels and Max obsessively trying to remember a tune - this is a play full of life, character, intrigue and fun. Perfect escapism for two hours. Highly recommend. 

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