Theatre Review: LOVE FROM A STRANGER – The Lowry, Salford

Helen Bradbury in LOVE FROM A STRANGER.

Helen Bradbury in LOVE FROM A STRANGER. Photo Credit: Sheila Burnett

Lucy Bailey ramps up the tension in her adaption of Agatha Christie’s 1936 play LOVE FROM A STRANGER

Lucy Bailey’s slick new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1936 play LOVE FROM A STRANGER is tense and entertaining, with a good blend of grit and lightheartedness, which creates an enjoyable piece of entertainment.

Based on Christie’s short story, Philomel Cottage, Christie adapted the story for the stage herself. It was later revised by Actor and Writer Frank Vosper who utilised the part of Bruce as a star vehicle for himself. As a result, this is a really juicy role for a actor to sink his teeth into and Sam Frenchum is obviously having fun with this charming yet sinister character. Helen Bradbury gives a classy and controlled performance as Cecily Harrington, reminiscent of Emma Thompson. Together they create a wonderful portrayal of this at first blissful marriage that grows into a controlling relationship.

LOVE FROM A STRANGER is directed extremely well and is extremely interesting to watch with Oliver Fenwick’s lighting design beautifully adding to the tension. Mike Britton’s innovative set is equally excellent with it’s sliding rooms and translucent walls showing us just enough to ramp up the pressure. As the cosy cottage starts to feel less and less safe, things become darker and we see Cecily’s skewed view of things.

By contrast, some of the other characters lack a little depth. This is likely due to their limited stage time, but occasionally it does seem odd to have a different actor playing every single role as it would have been more interesting to see certain actors experimenting with multiple roles.

Nicola Sanderson provides comedic relief as Cecily’s Auntie Lou, but her characterisation seems almost panto-esque at times. Though she is funny, her delivery sometimes feels a little too over-the-top and out of place. Molly Logan is particularly entertaining as the housekeeper, Ethel, with her one liners always sparking a laugh.

The fact that this is based on a short story is quite apparent, as this quick story is stretched out to two hours. Many of the scenes feel unnecessarily padded and long, and while it gives us time to get to know Cecily and Bruce, it does start to drag a little. Nevertheless, this is still a wonderfully gripping, entertaining show with a good balance of comedy to keep things from getting too heavy.

With it’s cast of quirky characters and gripping plot, LOVE FROM A STRANGER is a fun night at the theatre with something for everyone to enjoy.

LOVE FROM A STRANGER runs at The Lowry, Salford until 14 July 2018.