"The show's energy drains the longer it goes on"

"Robert Allan Ackerman’s production is stylish yet feels under-powered"
-The Evening Standard-

"While the mechanics of the dual murders are moderately exciting, in the second half the tension decelerates"
-The Guardian-

Sorry, Strangers on a Train closed on 22 Feb 2014

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You end up wishing that this train would keep on rolling down the track...

Critic Rating

18 November 2013, Gielgud Theatre
Dominic Dominic
Strangers on a Train pulls up to the Gielgud Theatre making for a second Hitchcock thriller in the West End. Unlike the expertly delivered and wonderfully simple The 39 Steps, you end up wishing that this train would keep on rolling down the track.

Production wise this fails to hit the mark. On paper Tim Goodchild's set design may have looked decedent and effective, but in reality it was clunky and overreaching. Revolves seem to be in vogue amongst plays at the moment, but whilst 'A Doll's House' at the Duke of York's showed exactly how effective they could be, here it was dizzying and unnecessary. Tension and anticipation failed to be created, in part due to the cumbersome scene changes, themepark-esque soundtrack and constant flapping of curtains indicating another scene being set up behind the action

On the whole this was a painfully acted production that failed to graduate above a whisper, with uneven performances from each of the leads. Laurence Fox is miscast as leading man 'Guy' , the central protagonist with whom Jack Huston's Bruno becomes obsessed. His stage presence is awkward, and American accent practically non existent as he fails to find rhythm in any of the text. He sleepwalks through the part, barely rising above an audible whisper that literally failed to keep me awake (the first time I've ever managed to fall asleep sitting upright, and that includes frequent long haul flights...).

Imogen Stubbs plays Elsie in a constant state of hyperactivity, failing to keep the emotional tension behind Bruno's character together. You end up wishing Guy had been forced into a double homicide rather than just being blackmailed into bumping off her husband. Myanna Buring proved to be the highlight with a quirky southern drawl, but unfortunately she became an early victim of Bruno's murder plan, and it was back to the dressing room with her.

The writing is clunky and uneven, with a much longer second act to first, making for a long and tedious conclusion. Audible laughs echoed around the auditorium at the dénouement, proving at least that some of the audience were still engaged. Many in the half empty dress circle took their cue to leave at the interval, with the couple next to me actively removing their infra-red sound headsets in a united act of defiance that signalled they too had had quite enough.

Craig Warner's new stage version, directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, tries to have the best of both worlds, falling down badly in the middle...Laurence Fox as Guy does his level best to maintain a tortured decency but struggles to remain interesting over two hours, while Jack Huston's brashly confident Charles Bruno swaggers superficially from scene to scene with none of the sinister charm or deviousness of Robert Walker in the movie.

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Henry Hitchings
Robert Allan Ackerman’s production is stylish yet feels under-powered. There is a lot of exposition but not much tension and for all the black-and-white aesthetics the atmosphere never seems sufficiently noirish. There are elaborate projections by Peter Wilms but the cinematic approach leaves one wondering whether it wouldn’t be more absorbing (and a lot cheaper) to stay at home with a DVD of Hitchcock’s film.

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Michael Billington
This is theatre turning into cinema rather than borrowing from it...everything about the first half suggests we are in for a night at the movies. We get multiple short scenes. Tim Goodchild's busily revolving set is shadowed by Peter Wilms's video projections so that we see the landscape through which the train is passing...although the show looks good, the acting is a more mixed bag. Laurence Fox is rather stolidly English as Guy, suggesting a house-prefect drawn into some dirty business by one of his raffish juniors.

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