Theatre Review: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN – Opera House, Manchester

Strangers on a Train

Craig Warner strips back Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 thriller STRANGERS ON A TRAIN to focus on the mystery, psychological drama and dark wit of the piece

It takes a brave man to take on an Alfred Hitchcock thriller which is probably why Craig Warner decided to opt for a slightly different approach with his stage adaption of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN.

Reworking Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 novel, Warner’s taut and effective production chooses to draw out the mystery, psychological drama and dark wit of the piece over the action and suspense of Hitchcock’s Oscar-nominated film.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN tells the story of two men – Guy Haines and Charles Bruno – who meet on a train travelling across America. Both men have someone in their lives who’s an inconvenience to them – a wife and a father – so when Bruno proposes to ‘trade’ murders, Haines laughs it off as a joke. But it isn’t long before the hypothetical turns into reality and events start to take a sinister turn, leading to fatal consequences for both.

CORONATION STREET’s bad boy Christopher Harper impresses as the charismatic and manipulative Bruno, delivering just the right mixture of malice and madness, while CALL THE MIDWIFE’s Jack Ashton is equally strong as Haines. EMMERDALE’s John Middleton delivers a solid performance in his UK touring stage debut as Detective Arthur Gerard and MR SELFRIDGE star Hannah Tointon does her best as Haines’s airhead mistress Anne.

Those familiar with Hitchcock’s 1951 film may be disappointed by the lack of suspense, tension and action in the piece, with Warner making some significant changes to the story. There are also some issues with pacing with the ending wrapped up far too quickly and neatly.

That said, there is enough intrigue in the story to hold your attention and David Woodhead’s intricate set design with its sliding doors, hidden rooms and moving staircase is a delight to watch.

3 out of 5 stars

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN runs at the Opera House until 10 February 2018.