I love Alfred Hitchcock Movies.
I was one of the 1960’s generation bought up on the tradition of Sunday Matinee movies, which had to be in black and white, colour was not an option in the days of my youth.
As I would sit with my younger brothers, I would be drawn into the mystery and suspense of these splendid films, which would transport us into a world of excitement, far away from the everyday world of bread queues and electricity strikes.
So when I saw that a touring production of Strangers on a train had a week of scheduled performances at the New Alexandra theatre in Birmingham, I just had to treat myself (and my other half) to a ticket.
The theatre production of strangers on a train is based on the book written by American author Patricia Highsmith; who maybe better known for the Talented Mr Ripley stories, rather than the Hitchcock film. For me this added to the drama and tension of the production.
The set designed by David Woodland, is basically a large box which becomes a train, an office, Bruno’s mansion and Master’s house.
There was a slight technical hitch with the set change on the opening night but this was professionally dealt with.
The story opens with the two main characters Charles Bruno and Guy Masters meeting on a train. Over several nips of scotch from a shared hip flask, we learn that Masters is trying to divorce his wife and that Bruno has a mother he adores but is controlled by his Father.
As the journey and sharing of the Whiskey progress, Masters listens to Bruno in a detached and bemused way when Bruno suggested that he would kill Masters Wife in exchange for Masters killing Bruno’s father. Bruno suggests this would be the perfect crime as the police would not be able to find any evidence to link the two of them.
When Masters reaches his destination he says goodbye to Bruno, thinking nothing more of this conversation.
Then Guy Masters’ wife is found strangled….
This production has received mixed reviews from theatre critics, particularly around the performances of the lead characters.
As a member of the audience I thought all the cast gave solid performances.
For me the stand out performance of the night was Chris Harper as the sinister, alcoholic, scheming Bruno. It would have been so easy to turn the character of Bruno into a pantomime villain but Chris Harper’s skillful acting made me care about this character, I just wanted to know what he would do next.
I really enjoyed this production and would recommend this for anyone who enjoys to quote the author P Highsmith a “why dun it”.
Strangers on a train is currently on a national tour.
Theatretastic rating 4/5: