There’s nothing like a chilling thriller to make things feel even colder on a freezing evening in February. Based on Patricia Highsmith's1950s novel, Strangers on a Train was an incredible production by an extremely talented cast.
The novel was made famous by the Oscar winning Alfred Hitchcock film and the story is essentially about the horrendous repercussions of two strangers meeting in the dining carriage of a train travelling across America. Guy Haines (Jack Ashton), a successful Architect and a rather inebriated Charles Bruno (Chris Harper) converse on the train. The initial conversation is carried out somewhat tentatively by Guy Haines and in a completely forceful manner by Charles Bruno. Charles Bruno hints that he would be happy to murder Haines wife for having an affair whilst he wants his Father murdered in return. As the two men are not connected in any way they would be sure to get away with it.
The chain of events that ensue were portrayed in such a thrilling way on stage that I was completely hooked and could not take my eyes off the stage from start to finish.
Performances by the entire cast were fabulous. Ashton’s portrayal of Guy Haines was captivating as his character changed from initially fairly ‘care free’ with only jealousy to mull over, to an anxious cold blooded murderer. It was fascinating to watch his demise on stage through the way he was drawn in to carrying out a murder himself. His constant battle between what was right and what was wrong became blurred. His anxiety and utter despair could be felt as he expressed his pain over the whole situation. Ashton was a joy to watch.
By comparison, Harpers portrayal of Charles Bruno depicted a rollercoaster of emotions. He was as gregarious and flamboyant as he was calculating and menacing and the emotion displayed for his Mother- perhaps the one true love of his life was effortless and sinister. Harper portrayed Charles Bruno as a rejected character with psychopathic tendencies that he was trying to mask, yet his normalisation of murder was constant throughout. The way Harper depicted Charles Bruno’s struggle with alcoholism was excellent.
It would be remiss not to mention the energetic performance by Hannah Tointon. Her performance of Anne Faulkner who played Guy Haines endearing, earnest and totally loyal wife was just fabulous.
Incidentally the set itself was a standout construction in its own right. From train carriage to a house with moving stairs and, at other times, an office and later a home that was like something straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, the set was magnificent and truly framed the entire production.
This production maintained its spine tingling chill throughout and as the plot developed the suspense was palpable. Typical of Hitchcock’s gripping, witty narrative and thrilling edge of the seat drama, this is a production that is absolutely chilling to the core.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 5th February 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★★