The Lady Vanishes

Lichfield Garrick Theatre


Based on the 1938 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this latest stage adaptation pulls in to Lichfield as part of an extensive UK tour.

The film showed early glimpses of Hitchcock’s unique ability to inject tension into his celluloid classics. Without the benefit of trademark dramatic camera angles and clever editing, the task is altogether harder for stage versions. Everything depends on effective staging, the script and it’s interpretation as well as the interactions between the main protagonists. Pace has to be key.

Anthony Lampard’s adaptation stays loyal to the period and retains the feel of the original screenplay. The problem, at times, is that it doesn’t always know what it wants to be. What are intended as straight plot lines are sometimes unintentionally funny . . . almost bordering on satire and farce when it would seem that is not the idea. A shame, as when the lines allow tension to build, the effect is suitably intriguing and genuinely draws the audience in.

Set wise, it all starts (and ends) beautifully. An impressive Viennese railway station complete with steam dominates the opening scene, brought to life by jostling passengers and busy staff. Subtle lighting picks out the shadows and creates a genuinely dramatic image.

From that point, however, the focus is on the railway carriages. Sliding doors are opened to reveal passengers inside and chairs/tables added to create a dining carriage. It feels a little disappointing after the grandeur of the opening visual feast but that said, the actors gel strongly and work hard to keep the energy and pace at the forefront.

There are, of course, the required number of quirky stereotypes onboard to keep the journey interesting - and what an assortment they are. A couple of cricket loving toffs, a society lady, a somewhat humour deficient Nazi, an ageing lawyer with his bit on the side, an internationally respected brain surgeon, a sword fighting Italian magician, a retired children’s governess and even a nun in high heels. With that kind of passenger list, something is surely going to kick off.

Performances are consistent across the board. Lorna Fitzgerald fizzes as Lady Iris while Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon add sherry fuelled comedy as the very English toffs, Charteris and Caldicott. Juliette Mills impresses, albeit briefly, as Miss Froy and Mark Carlisle brings a touch of Italian pazzazz as Signor Doppo. Mention, too, for understudy James Boswell who stepped in to play the lead character, Max with aplomb.

Scenes are underscored by a dramatic, orchestral soundtrack that is so richly associated with Hitchcock and gives a real cinematic feel to proceedings.  

There are bumps on the line. Plot motivations are not always clear (exactly why the Lady Vanishes could, for example, have been explained a little better) and the writing occasionally lets the actors down despite their best efforts.

All that said, this is a genre that never wains and this is a perfectly respectable version of a well loved and intriguing story. Fans of the genre will not be disappointed. To 22-06-19

Tom Roberts


Index page Lichfield Garrick Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre