It’s not often you come out of a production in love with the set: Craig Warner’s adaptation of Strangers on a Train is one of those rare moments.
David Woodhead has created something so exceptional, so tight in its jigsaw-like unveiling, set by set we are invited into a Hopper painting, every room full of character and no corners cut. It’s an intricate labyrinthine world of glorious unveils.
Strangers on a Train was always going to be a tricky production: so fervently stuck in our mind by the Master of Suspense, any adaptation that follows in Mr Hitchcock’s shoes is - in my opinion – a brave one. Yet this adaptation reflects more closely Patricia Highsmith’s book than the film, with its main Hitchcockian nod being in its incredible use of lighting and shadow. Howard Hudson’s incredibly lit rooms can make simple shadows fill a bar and spotlights look so isolating and haunting they are reminiscent of Gregory Crewdson.
One tableaux stood out in particular which saw the fading beauty Elsie Bruno, bidding farewell to her troubling son, sat on the bed with a gramophone playing, so sad and lonely in its frame yet brought to life by the incandescent Helen Anderson.
Helen Anderson, although in a supporting role, gives a fantastic performance, so fun and alive yet so haunted and downtrodden. Magnetic in her scenes, you found yourself watching only her, despite the very enthusiastically dark incarnation of her only son Charles (Chris Harper) who shares many of these scenes with her. Together their chemistry is raw: both playing at being vivacious and alive yet slowly decaying from the inside out – be it through drink, sin or burden.
This is the ultimate tale of will-he-won’t-he after a chance encounter on a train… but that’s enough of the plot: Jack Ashton’s Guy Haines is a solid, high-pressured breakdown of a performance and Hannah Tointon peppers an otherwise intense production with a refreshing lightness - and overall, this is compelling, if a little ovelong in the first half. Such details don’t quite matter, however, as we get to spend longer on this wonderful train bound for an entertaining evening.
Strangers on a Train continues at the Grand Opera House York until 10 March. Book by clicking the button.BOOK NOW