Review: The Lady Vanishes

THE Classic Thriller Theatre Company are back in Leeds with the never-before-seen adaption of the Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes at Leeds Grand Theatre this week. This Bill Kenwright Production is filled with classic actors from film and stage and they present a veritable feast of “whodunnit”.

It’s 1938 and a colourful batch of characters waits to join a train bound for Austria. There’s the lawyer Todhunter and ‘Mrs Todhunter’, his mistress; English pals and cricket fanatics Charters and Caldicott; Max, an engineer with a surprising fondness for European folk dancing; playgirl Iris returning to England to be married; and Miss Froy, a harmless old governess.

While everything seems pretty jolly – station attendants wearing swastika armbands dance with Iris and her pal Blanche – a sinister figure stalks the platform in full Nazi regalia. As they’re about to board the train, Iris is hit on the head by a clumsy porter as she tries to pass Miss Froy the bag she’s been looking for.

Miss Froy helps her on board and, after Iris recovers somewhat, they get to know one another in the dining carriage. Back in their compartment, shared with the Nazi officer and an Italian stage magician, the still woozy Iris has a nap at Miss Froy’s suggestion, but when she wakes up… the lady has vanished!

Can Iris, with the help of the frightfully annoying Max, prove she isn’t going mad and save Miss Froy from whatever nefarious scheme she’s fallen prey to? You need to come and watch the play to find out.

There are a number of outstanding performances in this production. I was particularly impressed with Lorna Fitzgerald as Iris. Lorna is probably best known for her role as Abi Branning in the BBC’s Eastenders. She is on stage for virtually the whole of the play and turns in a terrific performance. Also deserving of great plaudits is James Boswell in the role of Max. James was a late replacement for Matt Barber on the opening night of the production in Leeds but one would think that he has been playing this role forever so good was his performance.

These two main characters are well supported by Juliet Mills (daughter of the late Sir John Mills and elder sister of Hayley) as Miss Foy, Philip Lowrie as Eric Todhunter and Elizabeth Payne as Margaret his Mistress, Mark Carlisle as the Italian Signor Doppo and Maxwell Caulfield as Dr Hartz. I must also give special mention to the humour of Robert Duncan as Charters and Ben Nealon as Caldicott, the two cricket mad friends who add much jollity to the production.

Morgan Large the designer needs to be applauded for his excellent sets, changing from the station in Croatia to the inside of the train with its various compartments and sliding doors plus the slick addition of tables and chairs for the scenes involving the dining car on the train.

The production is extremely well directed by Roy Marsden, best known for his portrayal of P D James’s Inspector Dalgliesh for fourteen years on television. Turning a classic Hitchcock film into a stage production is not easy but he has carried this off with aplomb.

The play runs until Saturday at the Grand Theatre in Leeds. Booking can be made on line is at or telephone 08448482700.

by John Burland