Love from a Stranger at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

By Dave Massey twitter.com/brumhour

Love from a Stranger at the New Alexandra Theatre

Based on a 1924 short story by Agatha Christie called Philomel Cottage, Love from a Stranger is a 1936 play by Frank Vosper, and is on stage all this week at New Alexandra Theatre as part of a UK Tour.

Despite the age of the play and short story this version is actually set in the 1958 in a medium size flat in London’s Bayswater during first half and then in a cottage in West Sussex during the second half.

Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett
Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett

I’ve not seen an Agatha Christie on stage before, only on tv or in films on tv so it was thrilling to have this unsettling and slightly uncomfortable (in a good way) tale brought to life in front of our eyes. A single repeated piano note is playing as we arrive into the auditorium and the set is split into three or four areas. I thought this was going to represent different sets but it was in fact one single apartment.

Cecily (Helen Bradbury) is renting out her apartment when an American named Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum) turns up on her doorstep having spoken to her auntie Loo Loo (Nicola Sanderson) about the rental. Cecily shocked to find herself being swept off her feet by this stranger Bruce, especially as her fiance Michael Lawrence (Justin Avoth) is returning back from the Sudan, after some years away, that very afternoon.

Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett
Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett

Huge sections of the set move like something out Sliding Doors making me think of chances missed and how we shouldn’t waste time. The sound of old fashioned cameras and light from a dark room all reinforce this discomfort I’ve been feeling since arriving in. It feels a bit like a haunted house theme park ride at times.

I came into the interval thinking we had seen a series of set up conversations snapshotting their life even though most of the first half takes place over a single day. The second half takes place over some days or weeks which only adds to the feeling that something is slipping out of control.

Science and literature play a part here and if you know both it will help give you clue, even in the moments you wonder what the mystery might be.

Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett
Love From a Stranger Sam Frenchum and Helen Bradbury Photo by Sheila Burnett

I was engrossed from start to finish and can’t recommend going to see this enough. You can’t help wanting to fight for Cecily and her future.

The rest of the cast is made up of Alice Haig as Mavis, Gareth Williams as Hodgson the Gardener, Molly Logan as Ethel, his niece and Crispin Redman as the Doctor. Apart from Mavis these characters don’t actually appear in the first half.

The actors all feel very strong in their roles and my favourite was Nicola Sanderson as Auntie Loo Loo who annoyance can be apparently curtailed by the offer of afternoon tea!

Unnerving, unsettling and thrilling, check out Love from a Stranger at New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 19th May tickets are on sale here: atgtickets.com/shows/agatha-christies-love-from-a-stranger/new-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/


This a sponsored post. #BrumHour was invited to see Love from a Stranger by New Alexandra Theatre.

#BrumHour’s travel was provided by Whim UK the new travel and transport app for the West Midlands. Find out more about Whim UK here: whimapp.com/uk

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