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Strangers on a Train - Genesian Theatre (NSW)

Adapted for the stage by Craig Warner. Presented by Genesian Theatre Company. Directed by Mark G. Nagle

 

Reviewed by Juliana Payne

Genesian Theatre, Sydney

Until 20th April


An artfully directed adaptation of the well-known text comes to life in Genesian Theatre's latest theatrical offering. It will leave audiences buzzing!

 

With the famous 1951 movie version of Strangers on a Train in mind, the rotund silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock was looming over the Genesian Theatre. However, Craig Warner’s fresh and contemporary adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s first novel dispelled the shadow and brought a whole new tone, feel and focus to the well-known psychological thriller. We can only imagine that Highsmith herself might have approved as reportedly she disowned the Hitchcock film.

 

And wonder of wonders – we get to hear modern Aussie accents on stage! Director Mark Nagle has set his version of the story in Australia between Sydney and Charters Towers, so it was quite a relief to hear them au naturale. It brought a new sense of the universality of the themes and dilemmas with which the characters grapple – what does right and wrong actually mean? Who is really bad or good? Can we be both? All this and more are brought to life in the historic Genesian Theatre. 


Genesian Theatre Company's 'Strangers on a Train'. Images by LSH Media (Luke Holland)

 

Most will know the plot well – the initial meeting of two men on a train, one of whom offers a ‘deal with the devil’ to get rid of people they’d both rather not have around, which soon descends into a hellish agony of moral choice and amoral emotional manipulation.  This will end in tears.

 

Nagle’s direction is traditional but solid given the proscenium arch setup; he starts in medias res and keeps the pace galloping along in the first act, which builds the tension the play requires in the audience. It lags a bit in the second act, with possibly too much of the Poirot-esque exposition of things we already know, but the final scene is still shattering. 

 

Gregory George’s set is cleverly stylised and streamlined, seamlessly (and effectively) transitioning from train, to bar, to home. The venetian blind window effects are a smart touch, enabling some very evocative tableaux to be displayed at key points, proving that images are worth a thousand words. It also enhances the creepy feeling of who is watching who, that runs through the play.

 

Michael Schell and Cian Byrne’s lighting is well integrated into the set, using colour and staggered effects to highlight the unfolding action. Schell’s sound design is very much of the Bernard Hermann style, Hitchcock’s favourite composer, and of course is perfect for this plot, very much in the Psycho/North by Northwest style to heighten the drama.


...people were buzzing with questions as we all headed out into the night when the final curtain came down

 

Roy Wallace-Cant as Charles Bruno in his debut has the right look to depict the psychopath with the boyish good looks; he switches from charm to menace to pathetic neediness and back again, and definitely has a most unhealthy Freudian relationship with his mother.  Hamish MacDonald in the pivotal role of Guy Haines depicts well the emotional pressures and mental descent that drives him to the unthinkable. Rachele Edson as Anne Faulkner develops in the role well, as she moves from puzzled wife to having to take charge when all seems lost. Krishae Senthuran, Jane Wallace, Christopher Brown and Cris Bocchi are a reliable and trustworthy supporting cast.

 

The audience loved this performance, and people were buzzing with questions as we all headed out into the night when the final curtain came down. The main question on everyone’s lips was of course – if you could get away with it, would you commit murder?

 

Strangers on a Train


Production

Director Mark G. Nagle

Assistant Director Owen Hirschfeld

Set Design Gregory George

Costume Design Helen Kohlhagen

Lighting and Sound Design Michael Schell


Crew

Stage Manager Andrew Badger

Lighting and Sound Operation Cian Byrne

Rebekah Wright

Paul Adderley


Cast

Roberta Treacher Cris Bocchi

Arthur Gerard Christopher Brown

Anne Faulkner Rachele Edson

Guy Haines Hamish MacDonald

Frank Myers Krishae Senthuran

Elsa Bruno Jane Wallace

Charles Bruno Roy Wallace-Cant

 


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