Reviewed by Nigel Chester
The Lichfield Garrick is an absolute joy. There is parking that is free after 6.30pm only a minutes walk away. A well stocked bar, food aplenty, including some gluten free. Fantastical clean toilets, super friendly staff and as one patron was over heard to say “Life doesn’t get better than this” when the ice cream seller arrived in the auditorium during the interval.
We were seated comfortably to see the first ever stage adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes, written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder. It was presented by The Classic Thriller Theatre Company who for a decade, successfully performed as The Agatha Christie Theatre Company. Therefore, we knew we were in for a treat.
The play opens with a train station in pre-second World War Austria. Nazi flags flying and the presence of the war machine was frightening for us as we had the historical context that the passengers did not. The train had stopped due to an avalanche, this interlude in the journey gave us the opportunity to meet the characters, before they alighted.
The air-head Iris (Lorna Fitzgerald) returning to London to marry a lord of the realm. Margaret (Elizabeth Payne) and Eric (Philip Lowrie) having a romantic break away from there respective partners and discussing their future. Eric has high hopes that he will be made a Judge and the timid Margaret hoping to be his wife. I think it was fairly obvious that neither was likely to happen. Next were the cricket obsessed old friends Charters and Caldicott (Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon) as well as Germans, an Italian Magician, various waitresses and even a Doctor and a Nun, however my personal favourite was Maximilian who was crafted to perfection by Matt Barber who you may know from Downton Abbey where he played Atticus Aldridge. Barber isn’t the only face you may recognise from the television, Lowrie played Dennis Tanner in Coronation Street.
The staging was fabulous, the noise of the train hummed along in the background and the cast moved in the exact way you do on a train. I actually felt as if I had taken the journey with them and when it was the interval it felt as if we had arrived at the first destination for a change of platform. Brilliant.
The story, without giving to much away, revolves around whether Iris had imagined an English governess or if the dear tweed clad old lady was the result of hysteria that a sniff of cologne might clear. The plot twists and turns and is intriguing. You’re unsure of whose reality to believe and in the end find yourself thinking ok. I saw that with my own eyes.
Finally, I would like to praise the staging the direction and the production. It was slick and everything you would expect from a professional production. The sound designer (Dan Samson) who had the job of presenting an off-stage world must be delighted with the result. I know we were.
As we left the theatre there was excited chatter about the play and the word that was on everyone’s lips was “Brilliant”.
Tickets cost from £24 (booking fees may apply).
The Lady Vanishes is at the Lichfield Garrick from 17-22 June 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.lichfieldgarrick.com or call the box office on 01543 412121.
Lichfield Garrick Theatre, Castle Dyke, Lichfield, WS13 6HR | 01543 412121