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Review: The Lady Vanishes – intrigue, laughs and action

The classic Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes has been given a new lease of life in an entertaining stage adaptation, which opened at Cardiff’s New Theatre tonight (Tuesday 16th July).

With a cast headed by Juliet Mills and her husband, Maxwell Caulfield, this is a consciously old-fashioned mystery, set in the 1930s.

While the original film involves a train journey from a fictitious European country, here we begin in Austria – with Nazi flags and uniforms to the fore, and our British central characters understandably uneasy and keen to get home.

The story concerns young Iris (Lorna Fitzgerald – best known as Abi in EastEnders), travelling home to England to be married. She befriends a mild-mannered governess Miss Froy (Juliet Mills).

But Miss Froy disappears and other passengers deny ever having seen her. Iris is determined to find out what happened, and alongside Max (Matt Barber), an engineer and musical historian, the pair become an unlikely team of detectives.

They find themselves drawn into a web of intrigue and into serious danger as they try to solve the mystery of how and why the lady vanished.

You’ll probably have figured it out soon into the second half (or you may have remembered the film), but it doesn’t really matter. This is worth staying on board for the ride – an old-style adventure with a puzzling mystery, suspicious foreigners, romance, comedy, and even some fights!

The set design by Morgan Large cleverly recreates the train compartments, and the dining car, in which much of the action takes place.

Special mention must also go to Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon in the supporting cast, as two cricket-loving Englishmen, desperate to get home in time to catch a day’s play at the Old Trafford Test match. The pair deliver plenty of chuckles as they debate the finer points of the googly, and use sugar cubes to compare fielding positions. But, when the chips are down, they show their stiff upper lips.

This is the latest production from The Classic Thriller Theatre Company, capably directed by Roy Marsden, and as usual delivering a high quality theatrical experience.

If you enjoy an old-fashioned thriller, with intrigue, laughs, and action, as well as the chance to see acting royalty in Juliet Mills, The Lady Vanishes won’t disappoint.

The Lady Vanishes plays at the New Theatre until Saturday. Tickets are available from the box office on (029) 2087 8889 or book online.

Review by Andrew Weltch

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