Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

by Julie Wallis

Strangers on a Train at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

I went see the thriller Strangers On a Train based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith which is at The New Alexandra all this week.

Centred around two strangers who meet on a train, the set is the interior of a train carriage. One has a controlling father, the other has an unwanted wife who refuses to divorce him to leave him free to marry his mistress. If they kill each other’s relations can they succeed in getting away with murder? One seems to think that this could be the perfect murder, with nothing to tie him to the other’s wife the police will never link him to a stranger…..the perfect crime, or is it?

Strangers on a Train
Christopher Harper and Jack Ashton photo by Helen Maybanks

The set itself is impressive. I was watching the action unfold and thinking “why have they made it such a silly small set?” When the next scene starts, all becomes clear as another set opens up elsewhere on stage. I can only compare this to the Celebrity Squares game show set. It can show several locations on stage at the same time almost split screen style. For the most part, the scenes take place in one of these boxes with an occasional scene on the entire stage. It’s all very clever, with a lot of movement going on that the audience doesn’t see.

Jack Ashton (Call the midwife) plays Guy, a mild mannered architect, and with his new bride Annie by his side he has some big dreams. But Guys chance encounter with Charlie, turns Guys world on its head and my heart ached for this kind, likeable man. Jack really breathes life into what could be an otherwise dull character.

Charlie, played by Chris Harper (Coronation Street) is a lively, flamboyant, drunk young playboy type and I just couldn’t help but like his character. Chris Harper throws himself into this part and gives this shallow young man some dark depths.

Hannah Tointon (Hollyoaks) as Annie is wonderful in her role of the girl next door that steals Guys heart. She is as American as apple pie, and just as sweet and wholesome.

I found John Middleton (Emmerdale) as Arthur the private eye that is investigating the murder of Mr Bruno to be a charming and caring character who plays the part well, there was a very real tension in the scenes between Arthur and Charlie and a tenderness in the scenes between Arthur and Elsie. Elsie Bruno, is played to perfection by Helen Anderson and is my favourite character.

Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train Hannah Tointon and Jack Ashton photo by Helen Maybanks

Dark and suspenseful, Strangers on a Train is very different to my usual choice of joyful musical. I did feel sad when I left the Alex last night, there is no light relief in this, but that said it is a good production and I did enjoy it.

There were a few opening night hiccups with a couple of missed lines and stray scenery but this was handled with great professionalism by the actors.

This is a very clever production of a classic suspense thriller. I really appreciated the design of the set, it’s not something I have ever seen before and the layout did mean this show can get away with a lot of set changes with no interruption to the audiences viewing pleasure. There is also some clever use of projection images to set some scenes.

I did love the ending, completely different to what I was expecting, although I found some of the storyline a bit tenuous, especially Arthur’s lines in places, I just enjoyed this for what it is and reminded myself i was not watching real life or a modern police drama.

Strangers on a Train
Strangers on a Train

If I’d not been invited to see this for #BrumHour I’d never have looked at going to see something like this, but I’m so glad I did take this opportunity. Strangers On a Train was two hours well spent for me.

Strangers on a Train is at New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 3rd February. Tickets are available here:

Julie was invited to see Strangers on a Train on behalf of #BrumHour at New Alexandra Theatre. This is her honestly held view.

Julie Blogs as RedandGoldWeb here: