Review:The Vanishing Lady (touring) Derby Theatre.

It seems when one compares the so called classic and naturally now, rather dated, 1938 Alfred Hitchcock film version of Ethel Lina White’s The Lady Vanishes with this, adapted for the stage version, by Anthony Lampard, there is actually little to compare. The original film story writing by Sidney Gillat and Frank Launder for The Lady Vanishes remains superb, however, for those expecting us to say the film version was clearly the victor in artistic terms, then we seriously beg to differ.

This touring staged version is vastly superior. Gone are the old fashioned film castings of foreigners as a figures of overly verbose and histrionic fun. In the stage version they are replaced with much more serious foes in the actual form of the rise of the Nazis. Given the date of the film release it is understandable how a political and armed threat in central Europe had become a strong topical theme given that the Second World War started just one year later.

If we need our theatre enactments to be relatable then this sterling production of The Lady Vanishes certainly does the trick by including a history properly known to the contemporary viewer. Politics aside, there is plenty to entertain and perplex in this excellent stage adaptation.

The Agatha Christie Company and The Classic Thriller Theatre Company do well to utilise their decade long success in presenting this ‘devilishly fun thriller’ in this newly cast 2019 tour. Our Derby Theatre audience really do appreciate their vision and great ability to entertain in a very mature, yet, awfully English, tongue in cheek fashion, on the Derby Theatre stage tonight.

Popular Derbyshire and BAFTA nominated actress Gwen Taylor excels as the Miss Froy, the vanishing lady herself. Taylor gives her character a really intelligent yet homely feel with plenty of in depth sparkle to her personality. Andrew Lancel’ s performance as Dr Hartz is hypnotic, both smooth yet containing a, beneath the surface, maleficence. The younger heroes of the piece are terrifically well done by Scarlett Archer (Iris) and Nicholas Audsley (Max). Their combined concentrated enthusiasms and energies bring The Lady Vanishes to life and they really carry the piece with its integrated period drama and humour. We are also blessed with believable and strong performances from Dennis Lill (Charters) and Ben Nealon (Caldicott) and a muscular ensemble who work hard under the perfect direction of director Roy Marsden.

In just under two hours long, including interval, The Vanishing Lady is one touring period drama you really must see as it pulls in at Derby Theatre. You will be rewarded with a beautifully cast piece, classy performances, superb costumery and a set that will make you believe that the train and its carriages are the real deal on Derby Theatre’s main stage. This show is so finely detailed and filtered through with a knowing humour, that one is inclined to come back and visit it a second time. But then one would then know all the, how and why, the lady vanished! A truly classic thriller!

The Vanishing Lady runs at Derby Theatre until Saturday 12th October. Don’t miss it!

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