The words ‘Alfred’ and ‘Hitchcock’ are absent from the programme credits in this muddled new West End thriller. Which is sort of fair enough: writer Craig Warner and director Robert Allan Ackerman have adapted ‘Strangers on a Train’ from Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel, not Hitchcock’s 1951 film version.
At the same time, it feels a little perverse not to credit the Master of Suspense at all: ‘Strangers on a Train’ is wrapped up to the point of mummification in the visual currency of his film noirs. And while leads Laurence Fox and Jack Huston offer different takes on titular antiheroes Guy and Bruno to their film counterparts, these starched, stylised performances are beamed direct from Hitch’s America.
They’re not performances for the 2013 London stage, though: Fox’s awkward architect and Huston’s creepy mummy’s boy are so determinedly unnaturalistic as to make no psychological sense.
Fox is actually quite interesting in a downbeat way, but his mumbling, miserable Guy is too low-key to really command our attention. But it’s Huston’s stalker whackjob who lets the side down properly. His camply psychotic Bruno is completely one note, and as he slowly, inexorably pressures Guy into committing the ‘perfect’ crime he’s no deeper, more plausible or less predictable than a cartoon supervillain.
But it’s hard to blame the actors when the show’s formal stiffness was clearly director Ackerman’s intent. The plus side of his noir fixation is that ‘Strangers on a Train’ is a truly wonderful-looking show: from Peter Wilms’s kinetic black and white projections to the seamless revolve, lavish effects and Tim Goodchild’s gorgeous modernist sets, every scene is a visual knockout.
But it never sucks you in emotionally, and for a thriller it just isn’t very thrilling.
By Andrzej Lukowski
Average User Rating
2.9 / 5
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My friend and I thought this was one of the best theatre experiences we have ever had and we have had many! The plot was gripping, the acting was amazing and the stage, well, that just left us speechless! The theatre is absolutely beautiful and was the icing on the cake of a great day out.
A work colleague and myself went to see this play last week and can't praise it enough.Superb acting and the portrayal of characters can't be faulted. The scenery was amazing! I know some critics have not been too impressed with this play for various reasons but I went to be entertained and that's exactly what I was.I believe that sometimes if one is too critical and looking for bad in something you miss the entertainment. If you get the chance to see this play before it finishes then go and enjoy!!
Utterly engrossing. Whether you remember the Hitchcock or not, this is tense, brilliantly acted theatre at its best. Particularly superb acting from Jack Huston, but all were consummate. A slow start perhaps, but sometimes that happens in the theatre....something to do with building the characters, the tension....? As the last reviewer say, get to it before it closes.
A master class in production design. One of the best plays I've seen in London in years (and I've been to see many). Don't read some of the miserable reviews below. They'd probably prefer Mamma Mia. It's everything theatre should be: exciting and dramatic. Like an authentic film noir live on stage. Go, go, go before it closes.
Having seen this last night I want to spread the word! The acting was superb, tense and very convincing. Bruno was a wonderful mixture of charming and twisted and it was hard to believe at times I actually felt sorry for him. The acting from both Guy, Bruno and Bruno’s doting mother penetrated me despite being at the back of the Grand Circle. The show was smooth, slick and delicious in its staging and design. It had a wonderful balance of dark humour, romance, drama and horror. One not to be missed!
Having not knowing much about the film, apart from the general plot. I was expecting this play to be a bit dated and boresom. However I was thrillingly surprised. The set is amazing and magical at some points. Lawrence Fox was ill on the date we went, his under study was good, but to be honest I don't think the role is a meaty one. Jack Huston was the star of the show an amazing performance and a thrill to watch. It is true that some people did laugh throughout the performance but I feel that wasn't the production's fault. The story is an old one so some of the lines were dated and sounded preposterous nowadays which explains the laughter. I liked the show thoroughly and it was a huge surprise how much I enjoyed it. I have recommended it to everyone I know. So glad it was on the TimeOut offers as I wouldn't have gone otherwise. So take advantage of the offer and go see this great show!
I was aware of the play through watching Hitchcock's film and went with the expectation of seeing a film noir - some people seemed to think it was a comedy and laughed at what should have been suspense moments filled with menace, Jack Huston on the whole was great but I think the direction is the missing element.
The revolving set was the best part of the show. Lawrence Fox was truly terrible, the worst acting performance I have ever seen on stage. Jack Huston was ill and missed the performance, but his stand-in, Antony Jardine was very good, probably saved as much of the day as could be saved. Imogen Stubbs was Blanche DuBois-lite, MyAnna Buring was barely in the play. Disappointing.
Simply awful. Fox is one of the worst actors I have EVER seen on stage. I feel ashamed for everyone involved in this shoddy production. Horrific acting, clunky horrible sets. Please do NOT waste your money, you will instantly regret this. What a dreadfully acted, horrifically directed production. Close it!
It was like a steam train - once it had warmed up it took you on a thrilling ride! Amazing set and totally believable characters from Charles and his masterful manipulation of his madness to Guy's capitulation into a world of murder brought about by his love for another woman. Such a delight! Fab night out - ignore what the over critical say - as this production, if you give it the time, gives you moments of joy and horror but leaves you with an overall sense of pity for victims of circumstance! Bril!
A slow dull start following the very dramatic intro music and clever film use. The story grew more interesting with the appearance of MyAnna Burring and Imogen Stubbs. The fast scene changes kept up momentum and the leading men grew into their psychological worrying characters. The climax was startling and dramatic. I have never seen such an amazing scene set on a stage. Worth the ticket price to experience the finale. The whole show is lifted by the exquisite costumes. I am 60+ and I took my daughter, 20+. We both enjoyed our night out.
Hmmmm, a major disappointment. Terrible script, poor acting, and if the highlight of your evening is a revolving stage? Then you may be in for a treat. Jack Houston and Imogen Stubbs were the best things in this tedious and bland show. Lawrence Fox was painfully terrible, totally miscast. His accent was appalling and his acting quite possibly the worst I've seen on the London stage for a long time. He looked bored, his voice was very weak and nasally and he was totally out of his depth. Just because you come from an acting 'dynasty' does not warrant charging £65+ for a substandard performance, I have seen lesser known actors in fringe plays, do a much better job - maybe stick to cosy Sunday night television and leave the West End Stage to actors who can handle the challenge. All in all, a terrible theatrical experience. No stars ( well, maybe one for Jack and Imogen)
The evening didn't start too well when we were kept waiting outside for 20 minutes as the theatre wasn't prepared in time. I was aware of the story line but the play started very slowly and I found the accents very hard to be plausible. I really didn't "get" the scene with mother and son but then we could only see their bottom halves as we were seated in row N of the stalls, quite near the back. It did perk up a little after the interval but still quite slow. I don't think it was just us that found the story slow because we had a very noisy snoring sleeper behind us. The best thing about the play was the stage scenery, which revolved, and the special effects - the fire was quite something! I would mark the stage and effects a very definite 4.5.
Honestly, this was the worst West End production I have ever seen (and I see at least 10 shows a year). The set is an interesting idea, but wildly impractical. Every single scene's tension (not that there was much to begin with), was destroyed by the loudest, clunkiest scene changes I've ever seen. Curtains are pulled back two or three times per scene, obviously to get set pieces on and off, projections are creeeepy, music is spooooky, and by the end you hope that fire will just burn it all. The acting is unilaterally disastrous, but special mention must be made for Laurence Fox, who like many of the Fox dynasty before him has no business being anywhere near a stage. That American accent - dear GOD, what was that? They have a few shows before press night, so I would suggest they find some way to make his character British. Imogen Stubbs is Norma Desmond x 100 and all played at such an outrageously camp level it actually starts to be entertaining (but still terrible). Jack Huston seems like he might potentially be able to act in a less ludicrous production, but considering the entire point of the story is that we don't know that his character is a gay psycopath with the hots for Haines, perhaps groping Fox and then revealing his homicidal plot shouldn't have been placed in the first 90 seconds of an otherwise interminable production. I would say this is AmDram theatre at its worst, but actually that does a disservice to the vast majority of AmDram groups who would never stage something this appalling and actually charge for it.
I didn't know what to expect as I hadn't read any reviews and didn't know much about the play. Although all the actors had terrible fake American accents the use of the stage was very clever. It carouseled around to reveal various scenes which was really clever. The seats I got were high up but I could still see the stage quite clearly as it's a small theatre but opulent nonetheless, and to my advantage I could enjoy watching people backstage in the dark frantically trying to set up the next scene as quietly as possible. The actual show was very unique. The first half was quite slow and dragged on a bit to be honest. It wasn't a show stopper but you can't really complain for £11! The second half is where it gets interesting and all the twists come into play (no pun intended! lol). I liked that you would never guess the ending and it got quite dramatic. You see how everything slowly comes apart from a seemingly well hatched out plan. There is a very strange relationship between one man and his mother and it got a little creepy at times, I don't know if this is intentional. Also the mother looked the same age as her son which was a bit silly. Overall this is a good night out and I'd recommend it to any Hitchcock or murder mystery fans (neither of which I'm a fan of but I still had a good night out!) The show started at 7.30 and ended at 10pm. It's 2 1/2 hours long with a 20min interval.