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Strangers on a Train @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 20th Mar 2018 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

 Strangers on a Train tickets

Have you ever wondered anything about your fellow passengers when you’re travelling by train?  Nowadays some people seem to enjoy having long conversations on their mobiles with no thought as to who is listening, so you get to know more than you ever wanted!  But, what if you were on a long journey and got chatting to someone over a drink or three, who turned out to be a psychopath?  That’s the premise of Strangers on a Train, written in 1950 by Patricia Highsmith and turned into a psychological thriller film noir by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. The film starred Farley Granger, Ruth Roman and Robert Walker and is number 32 on AFI’s 100 Years...100 Thrills.

Turning this classic into a stage play must have been extremely challenging on many levels.  Just how do you recreate a train and a series of rooms and sets?  Clockwork Scenery has designed and constructed a set that is absolutely incredible and deserves a huge credit for making this play work.  I couldn’t quite work out how they’d done it, but all I can say is it’s brilliantly clever and effective.  The play is written by Craig Warner, based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith.

Without giving anything away, the play opens on the train as two strangers get drunk together and Guy Haines (played by Call The Midwife’s Jack Ashton) bemoans the fact that his wife won’t divorce him.  Charles Bruno (Chris Harper) has a novel suggestion for dealing with this situation....

Chris Harper became a reviled soap villain playing the manipulative Nathan in Coronation Street, who lured Bethany into a life of prostitution.  Thankfully as soon as he started speaking in a very good American accent, we lost all traces of Nathan and accepted him as Charles Bruno.  He totally inhabits the role of this deranged psychopath, giving a dangerous and energetic performance that is totally compelling to watch.  With a good body of theatre work, including Shakespeare, to his credit I think Chris has a long and successful career ahead of him.  At the moment he is carving out a niche playing dark, tortured characters, but I suspect he could also play comedy equally well.

John Middleton is best known for playing Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale and recently won Best Actor and Best Male Dramatic Performance at the 2017 British Soap Awards.  Here he plays the family friend, who used to be a policeman, Arthur Cerard who has an inkling of what’s been happening.

Helen Anderson, as Elsie Bruno, gives a good rounded performance as the mother of Charles who loves her boy no matter what he does.  Hannah Tointon plays Anne Faulkner who tries to understand why the man she loves has become distant and preoccupied.

The first 20 minutes need some concentration to get drawn into the intimate setting of the train and tune into the American accent, but after that the action moves on apace.  The play continues at The Waterside Theatre until Saturday 24th March 2018 and from 27th-31st March at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Reviewed by:

Yvonne Delahaye

19.3.18

@yvonnedelahaye

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