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Switzerland - Ensemble Theatre (NSW)

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Directed by Shaun Rennie.

An elegant and cutting cat and mouse thriller. Be prepared for wordplay, suspense and intrigue from the mastermind of The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith!


Reviewed by Chanele Mao

Ensemble Theatre

Season 3 May – 6 June May 2024


Switzerland is a complex thriller, featuring the brilliant yet misanthropic writer, Patricia Highsmith and a bumbling, young aspiring book publisher, Tom Edward. The two characters meet in Switzerland at Highsmith’s fortress, hidden away from the prying eyes of the public and a refuge for her writing and thoughts.

The beautiful and secluded alps of Switzerland set the backdrop for Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Switzerland, the hideaway for the talented author of The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith. Shaun Rennie’s direction is simple and effective, as Highsmith and Edward engage in long conversations mostly face to face or side or by side, which brings an intimacy and directness in their interactions.

Switzerland, Ensemble Theatre (2024). Images by Brett Boardman


Highsmith (Toni Scanlan) is not the best sort of company. As a writer who was once at the top of her game, there have been awkward questions as to whether she still has it in her to write another bombshell, best-selling novel. When the young Edward (Laurence Boxhall) shows up at Highsmith’s doorstep all the way from America, with a contract and a “sign here” sticker, Highsmith is not, low and behold won over. Instead, she revels in belittling and bullying Edward who is timid and shy when we first meet him, but over the course of the play, reveals his true nature and character.


Veronique Benett’s set and lighting design uses light and shadow effectively to make a point about the sinister nature of Edward, who may be more than what he seems. The set is mainly made up of the living room of Highsmith’s Swiss chalet, with her writer’s desk and prized typewriter taking centre stage, surrounded by a lounge, sofa and coffee table to fill the stage.

...a multilayered play that discusses notions about aging, relationships, and poses questions about the consequences of success and having a legacy.

It was fascinating to watch a writer’s work “behind the scenes” – there is much planning, plotting, imagination and discovery in conjuring up a twisty murder mystery enveloped in darkness. Perhaps it is part of the human psyche to delve deep in the minds of those who commit crimes to uncover their motives and desires.


Switzerland is a multilayered play and discusses notions about aging, relationships, and poses questions about the consequences of success and having a legacy. Can a celebrated author rest on her laurels? Is Edward really here to get Highsmith’s signature or does he have some plans of his own? Does Mr Ripley make an appearance? Be sure to get tickets to find out!


The show runs for approximately 90 mins with no interval.  


Joanna Murray-Smith Playwright

Shaun Rennie Director

Veronique Benett. Set and Lighting Designer

Kelsey Lee. Costume Designer

Kelly Ryall. Composer and Sound Designer

Linda Nicholls-Gidley. Dialect Coach

Nigel Poulton. Intimacy & Fight Director

Lauren Tulloh. Stage Manager

Jemima Greenwood. Assistant Stage Manager

Renata Beslik. Costume Supervisor

Cast - Edward Laurence Boxhall

Cast - Patricia Highsmith Toni Scanlan


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