Review Roundup: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN at the Gielgud
Strangers on a Train opened last night at the Gielgud Theatre and runs thru 22 February 2014. This psychological thriller stars Laurence Fox, Jack Huston and Miranda Raison. Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: Laurence Fox as Guy does his level best to maintain a tortured decency but struggles to remain interesting over two hours, while Jack Huston's brashly confident Charles Bruno swaggers superficially from scene to scene with none of the sinister charm or deviousness of RoBert Walker in the movie.
Paul Taylor of the Independent writes: The ingenious basic premise remains sacrosanct. In a seemingly chance meeting on a train, the pushy and insinuating Charles Bruno proposes a murder-swap to Guy Haines: he will bump off Guy's unfaithful wife, if Guy will agree to kill Bruno's hated father. Watertight alibis; no connection between murderer and victim - the perfect criss-cross crime. Except that when Bruno performs his side of what was never a real bargain, it exposes the appalled Guy to a nightmare of blackmail and stalking.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard writes: ...Robert Allan Ackerman's production is stylish yet feels under-powered. There is a lot of exposition but not much tension and for all the black-and-white aesthetics the atmosphere never seems sufficiently nourish... Huston does a good job of conveying Bruno's manic excesses. Fox plays the more contemplative Guy with deliberate restraint. The character is a nerd and Fox captures this well... Yet mostly it feels as if the star of the show is Tim Goodchild's ingenious revolving design. And ultimately its complexity does not aid the clarity of the storytelling... There are elaborate projections by Peter Wilms but the cinematic approach leaves one wondering whether it wouldn't be more absorbing (and a lot cheaper) to stay at home with a DVD of Hitchcock's film...
Michael Billington of the Guardian writes: The whole thing is staged with hyper-efficiency by Robert Allan Ackerman and there are some striking visual effects: not least the reduction of the surrounding characters to frozen dummies whenever Guy and Bruno are involved in an intimate tete-a-tete. B but, although the show looks good, the acting is a more mixed bag. Laurence Fox is rather stolidly English as Guy, suggesting a house-prefect drawn into some dirty business by one of his raffish juniors. Jack Huston looks more at ease as the serpentine, psychotic, white-suited Bruno and Miranda Raison is all cool, high-society poise as Guy's wife... But the best performances come in subsidiary roles. Imogen Stubbs turns Bruno's mother into a shameless, quasi-incestuous vamp with a husky voice that suggests she gargles each morning in gin. A and ChristIan McKay, as the private investigator who sees through the flaws in the supposedly perfect murder, exudes a pin-striped normality in a murky world. I'd be lying if I denied that I was spasmodically entertained. I just worry that commercial plays, like musicals, are becoming ever more parasitically dependent on the box-office pull of existing novels and films. Or even, as here, turning into a strange hybrid.
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail writes: There is a monochrome theme to the story and the staging. Lots of blacks and whites. Moody smoke at the top of a doom-laden staircase. Wispy leftovers from the steam train? This is a story about (possibly gay) obsession, inner corrosion, the ratcheting power of secrecy and unreasonable love, and the destruction of innocent onlookers. Gosh, it's an unhappy story, even when produced so well as this Robert Allan Ackerman show...Jack Huston makes rich, drunken Bruno a stammering charmer, his convivial plausibility unravelling just as slowly as his slicked, black curls...Laurence Fox is maybe slightly less successful as architect Guy - with that Anthony Blunt face and that muffled voice, it is hard to buy him as a Fifties American thruster... MyAnna Buring burns briefly as Guy's first wife. Miranda Raison is elegant as her successor. I liked ChristIan McKay's composure as private detective Gerard.