City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Lady Vanishes Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 29 August 2013

The cast of The Lady Vanishes
Show details
Big Spirit Theatre
Running time: 
Beck Lee (director)
Emily Ashbrook (Iris), Jenny Wall (Miss Froy), Cameron Fraser (Caldicott), Adam Wood (Charters), Azza Essakhi (Boris), Conor Delaney (Dr. Hartz) and the ensemble cast playing numerous roles.

Big Spirit Theatre has devised a show based on the story of Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 political spy thriller. The film was adapted from the crime novel, The Wheel Spins, by British writer Ethel Lina White.

A cast of fifteen young guys and gals are standing in position like a chorus line as we enter the theatre, all wearing black costumes and holding up newspapers. Cole Porter’s song “My heart belongs to Daddy”, plays on the soundtrack, sung (I think) by Marilyn Monroe.

Have I come to the right Fringe venue?

The ensemble then start charging around the stage each carrying an old leather suitcase indicating the manic hustle and bustle of travel.

The setting is Europe in the mid 1930s, the playground for the British on holiday, who hate the fact that no-one speaks English.

The heroine is Iris Henderson, travelling home to England by train after a holiday in the Balkans. She becomes friends with an elderly lady, Miss Froy, a governess. Iris falls asleep and when she wakes up Miss Froy has vanished from the compartment. But the other passengers all deny having ever seen the woman.

The theatrical style of the play is dramatised like a silent movie, with OTT gestures, mime and slapstick comedy routines. Characters hold up black and white signs, explaining where the scene is set – e.g. The Maid’s room, the Train station, the Restaurant Car.

Unfortunately, with all the concentration of directing Top Hat and tails, song and dance entertainment, it takes over 25 minutes to get on board the train.

Tedious episodes cover checking into the hotel with a bad tempered manager and a glamorous maid, which create a crazy medley of Fawlty Towers and the musical Cabaret.

While Hitchcock’s film featured a humorous double act (Charters and Caldicott as the English avid cricket fans ), there was a serious dramatic plot of abduction, espionage, murder, suspense.

Remade as a comedy film in 1979, "The Lady Vanishes" starred Elliot Gould with nationalities changed from British to American and set in Germany, 1938. This was a serious commercial flop for Hammer films, its last movie for 29 years.

Big Spirit certainly try hard to reinvent Hitchcock’s vintage classic for the stage in this high energy, madcap production.

But throwing every theatrical genre into this mishmash of musical, silent movie and comic farce sadly results in an hysterical rabble of a show. Another flop of a revival here.

This lady wishes she could have left the train as it trundled along at breakneck speed - and vanished along with Miss Froy.

Run ended