STRANGERS ON A TRAIN – RICHMOND THEATRE REVIEW
We at TheLiveReview attended the press and opening night of Strangers on a Train. Although i have heard of the film naively had been unaware it was originally a book.
Strangers on a Train is a psychological thriller originally by written Patricia Highsmith in 1950. Onwards to 1951 and the famous Alfred Hitchock then adapted for film.
The story follows two men, Guy Haines an architect by trade and a man about to divorce his wife, and Charles Bruno a man who isn’t tied down by a job but is suffering from having his wealth withheld from him by his father.
As the title suggests initially they meet on a train. Strangers to each other, Charles Bruno visibly drunk approaches Guy whilst reading his book and engages in conversation. Wanting to get to know Guy, they talk about what they want and what is holding them back from that. For Charles is it his father who he detests, not having a happy childhood relationship, his father now withholds his fortune telling him he should be out there getting a job, for Guy Haines it is his wife whom he wishes to divorce, but of whom will also follow him to his next work destination and masterpiece to be ‘The Palmeras’ and in turn ruining his vision and work vision.
Through this conversation Bruno then suggests that they swap murders, Bruno would kill Haines wife and in return Haines would then kill Bruno’s father. The perfect crime Bruno bills it as , with no ties to each other and seemingly no motives, after all they may never have met, being the strangers on a train they were. Jokingly and not taking him too seriously Guy Haines agrees. It is from here that the story takes a turn and Mr Haines life changes.
Charles Bruno is played by Chris Harper, maybe most known for being in Coronation St, he brings his acting talents and huge theatre experience to this role superbly. His portrayal of this obsessed and deranged character keep us engaged throughout. His ability to show us his ‘close’ relationship with his mother, at times child like mannerisms and homosexual tendencies whilst obsessing over Guy Haines ensures that we are aware there is something not quite right about him. Going onto kill Haines wife as per his deal and then intertwining himself into Guys life is eerie at times. Threatening Guy when he refuses to undertake his part and threatening to tell everyone around him that Guy in fact killed his wife. Pressuring him via personal letters and calls, letters to employers after which then he starts randomly turning up at Guys wedding to his new wife of which Bruno also then befriends.
Jack Ashton of Call the Midwife plays out the role of the unassuming Guy Haines, a smart guy, who doesn’t take Bruno too seriously at the start and appeases Brunos deal of the perfect crime by jokingly agreeing to partake. Not thinking anything of it when his wife dies that it actually could be connected to the random meeting of that stranger on the train, goes onto build his signature creation. Now a successful architect Haines is now pressured and pestered via letters to him personally, to potential employers and calls to hid office until finally he does indeed kill Brunos Father. However with it he loses his soul. Jack Ashton plays the tortured soul brilliantly and for me was stand out. The second half of this show you feel the tension and sorrow he experiences, trying to disassociate himself with his obsessive friend. Trying to put it behind him an somehow move on.
Hannah Tointon in her second stint on the stage also outs in a good performance of the new wife, trying to understand her husband Guy Haines. Knowing what he was like prior to the death of his wife, his optimism and outlook on life and slowly seeing that die away whilst at the same time befriending the very person that was causing this decline. John Middleton plays the private investigator Arthur Gerrard, undertaking the role well albeit to brief and before starting his investigation seemed to have resolved it a few scenes later. The outcome however you will have to watch for yourself.
The staging was clever in using sliding doors to change the scenes between a train, street, houses and whatever environment they were in. Near the end we get some nice interactive scenerey with smoke blowing into the audience too!
This was a fantastic adaptation and thoroughly deserves all the plaudits it gets. Well acted and well cast. The storyline as good as it ever was. Congrats to all the cast and not just those mentioned. You may have seen this before but the ending may take you in a different direction.