Theatre Round-Up #111 – Hitchcock-O-Rama

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A little while back I mentioned that I had been to see “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at the Apollo Theatre (before the now-infamous ceiling collapse). While we were there, Pixie noticed that there was a stage adaptation of Strangers On A Train“, on at the Gielgud Theatre. First published as a novel, written by Patricia Highsmith – then released on-screen as a Hitchcock-directed thriller, we decided to take the plunge and get tickets.

I hadn’t seen a show at the Gielgud and it’s quite a nice space. The stage set had a revolving design that would spin for scene changes, which I thought was quite clever. A read a few reviews in which the person found the set distracting, but I didn’t have that problem. The cast were good, though Laurence Fox played “Guy Haines” a bit too nerdy at times. Jack Huston was excellent as “Charles Bruno” and Miranda Raison was good as Guy’s long-suffering wife, “Anne”. Imogen Stubbs vamped it up as Charles’s mother, affecting a sort of high-pitched gravelly voice.

The first half seemed almost scene-for-scene a run-through of the film, while the second got darker and seemed to take it’s cues from the book, particularly Charles’s quasi-incestuous relationship with his mother and his homo-erotic longing for Guy. He tries to split up Guy’s marriage and destroys Anne’s pregnancy by giving her chlymidiosis (he visits a farm with infected sheep and wears tainted boots into their home). The ending was unexpected and varied a lot from Hitch’s film. Charles and Guy huddle together as Guy’s barn/workshop burn around them. Nice fire effects for that scene as well!

The missus also checked the Oxford Playhouse listings around the same time and noticed a touring production of “Dial M For Murder” was going to be on in February and March. We were curious about how well it would adapt to the stage and duly bought tickets.

Put on by theatre group Fiery Angel and directed by Lucy Bailey – the play is virtually a scene-for-scene re-make of Hitch’s film. The cast were quite good, though Pixie didn’t like the transformation of “Max Halliday” into a dour Scotsman (played by Philip Cairns). Kelly Hotten provided glamourous cool as “Sheila Wendice” (with a proper English accent – as much as I like Grace Kelly, her accent was a bit off in the film). Robert Perkins was quite good as the conniving and domineering “Tony Wendice” – which is a tough role to claim, after Ray Milland‘s in the film. Christopher Timothy (yep, the “All Creatures Great And Small” actor) played “Inspector Hubbard” in a more gruff, ‘East Larndon’ way, unlike John Williams‘s posh, cut-glass manner in the film.

As in “Strangers…”, the stage set was clever and also featured a revolving piece – this time only the sofa. Early in the play, Tony is speaking to an old school acquaintence, “Captain Lesgate” (played by Daniel Betts, who, with his character’s ‘tache and booming voice, reminded me (unintentionally) of Matt Berry as “Stephen Toast“). I was paying attention to the dialogue and only noticed in a break in the talking that the sofa had spun around. The backdrop was see-through, which allowed the audience to watch as characters appeared in the ‘hallway’ outside of the flat.

Two enjoyable plays, but I’ve got my fill of murder-n-plots drama for the moment. Next on the list, I think, will be “The Events“, which will re-open in London in July.

“Strangers On A Train” finished it’s run at The Gielgud in February 2014.
“Dial M For Murder” is a touring production which is on in Newcastle this week.

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