Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes arrived in great style last night at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, with a fabulous cast led by Juliet Mills and her husband Maxwell Caulfield.
The play begins in an Austrian railway station, the German eagle and swastikas flying overhead. The train heading to Zurich is delayed by an avalanche, as waiting passengers mill around deciding what to do, including cricket chums Charters and Caldicott, a overbearing Nazi officer, soon-to-be judge Eric and his mistress Margaret and plain-speaking Max. One is young socialite Iris Henderson (ex-Eastenders actress Lorna Fitzgerald) who befriends a late middle-aged governess Miss Froy (an excellent Mills) before they agree to travel together when the train finally arrives.
Aboard the train, the action moves between the train compartments and the dining coach when suddenly Miss Froy disappears while Iris is asleep. Deeply puzzled, Iris searches in vain until suspicion sets in when almost everyone on board adamantly states that they never saw her board the train. Dr Hartz (Maxwell Caulfield) blames a blow to the head but soon Max (ex-Downton actor Matt Barber), an engineer with his sights set on soon-to-be-married Iris, comes around to believing her.
The acting is uniformly excellent, with very spirited performances from Fitzgerald and Barber, and wonderfully comic turns from Robert Duncan as Charters and Ben Nealon as Caldicott. The set, designed by Morgan Large, is terrific – evocative, realistic and clever.
Directed by Roy Marsden, this fast-paced, comedy action thriller is a real joy. From the first minute to the last, you can’t help but get drawn into such a stylish production. Highly recommended.
The Lady Vanishes runs until Saturday 16th February. To book, please call 01483 440000 or visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.