There’s nothing like a classic thriller to keep the people of Stoke-On-Trent entertained on a windy April evening; and entertainment is certainly what the audience got at the opening night of The Lady Vanishes at the Regent Theatre, Hanley.
Adapted from the 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film, the curtain rises on a swastika-clad train station in continental Europe on the brink of WW2.
At the station we meet prim and proper Iris, headed home to England to be wed; cantankerous lawyer, Eric and his mistress, Margaret who bicker about most things; buddies, Caldicott and Charters just trying to find out the cricket score; lone-wolf, Max who clashes with Iris’s upper-class attitude; and finally, quiet and neighbourly, Miss Froy.
Iris befriends Miss Froy but when she wakes from a nap, she finds the elderly lady missing – and everyone else on the train denies ever having seen her.
Iris reluctantly enlists the help of Max, and the pair navigate through the train carriages and characters trying to find the vanishing lady.
Lorna Fitzgerald (best known for her role as Abi in EastEnders) plays Iris with ease, and her descent into paranoia was unnervingly convincing for a character that started out the play without a care in the world.
Just as convincingly, Juliet Mills played sweet but feisty Miss Froy as if the role was made for her.
Max was one of the shining stars of the show, with understudy James Boswell making his lead debut at the Regent opening night and looking very comfortable in the spotlight.
Slightly drunk companions Caldicott and Charters, played by Ben Nealon and Robert Duncan got the audience laughing with their chemistry and sarcasm.
The set was captivating, from the steam-filled station at the beginning, to the detailed train carriages where the majority of the play is set.
The cast transform the backdrop from corridor to dining car without a hitch, and the subtle sound effects along with the cast gently swaying make you almost believe you’re on the train with them.
Unfortunately, there were a few elements of the show that didn’t quite live up to the rest.
Max Caulfield’s (Mill’s husband) portrayal of Dr. Hartz was hindered by a very hard to understand accent.
There was also an issue with voice projection, particularly at the start of the play. With many characters on stage and atmospheric sounds, you had to strain your ears to understand what they were saying.
This happened again right when the mystery of Miss Froy’s disappearance comes to a head – it made the big revelation a little anti-climactic.
The show was still thoroughly enjoyable despite a few bumps in the road (or train tracks).
Director Roy Marsden made sure the play had comedy, romance, mystery and a few moments that had the audience jumping in fear.
The Lady Vanishes is at the Regent Theatre from Monday 8 to Saturday 13 April.