American naturalism seeped in drama and suspense, Strangers on a Train comes to the Cambridge Arts Theatre but is slow leaving the platform. Revealing the train and our two protagonists, the beginning sets up the story aptly but from then on we trudge through character guilt, remorse and challenge for no resolve.
A fateful encounter in the dining carriage of a train crossing America, two men set into motion a chain of events that will change their lives forever. Guy, the successful businessman with a nagging jealousy; Charles, the cold, calculating chancer with a dark secret, begin a casual conversation climatically ending in murder. Based on the world renowned 1950 novel by Patricia Highsmith, made universally famous by the classic Oscar-winning Alfred Hitchcock film, this stage adaptation plays with suspense and seeks thrills which are not fulfilled.
A week night watch, this production calls out for a specific demographic; the audience member who revels in the fact that Vicar Ashley from Emmerdale has taken to the stage. The cast is led by Chris Harper, Coronation Street’s Nathan Curtis. John Middleton makes his UK touring stage debut as Detective Arthur Gerard and completing the line-up is Call The Midwife favourite Jack Ashton as the troubled Guy Haines, alongside Mr Selfridge star Hannah Tointon as Guy’s fiancée Anne Faulkner.
Instantly moving from dining carriage, bedroom and veranda, the set takes you on a visual journey, with projection, loud sound effects and dramatic lighting states, underpinning the suspense. Highlighting the action, the design, detail and craft of the set is charming. The cast move us through an action packed script flawlessly, transitioning from one space to another through a well balanced box set. An attention to pace is considered and moments of decision are demonstrated and received by the audience.
The aim to shock is undeniable but “Our deeds are charmed… and they haven’t got the minds to find us…” couldn’t be further from the truth. Ending in a deserted train yard, its hard not to recognise hell in the purgatory state of the two men’s actions. Filled with guilt and destroyed by one another’s manipulations, the stripped stage in its final moment seems more engaging than ever. I leave the theatre unafraid and undisturbed by what should at least resemble the Hitchcock masterpiece. 2/5
Review written by Megan Mattravers.
Strangers on a Train is currently showing until Saturday 3rd March 2018 at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. To find out more about the production, visit here…