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Strangers on a Train

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Three stars

Never let a drunk on a train try to be your best mate when you're reading Plato. If in any doubt of the potential consequences, check out what happens to poor Guy Haines, who, once accosted by terminal dipso Charles Bruno on a homeward-bound express, is catapulted into a life or death situation which could destroy his world. What Haines presumes to be hypothetical bantz in order to allow him to marry his new love Anne, Bruno takes seriously, and now Haines must pay the price.

Craig Warner's stage version of Patricia Highsmith's novel gives much of the wide-screen embellishments of Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 film version a wide berth in a script first seen on the West End in 2013. Anthony Banks' touring production gets to the story's dark amoral heart, even as it sets out its store in the assorted dream homes behind the sliding doors that make up a set by David Woodhead that looks to Jasper Johns as much as Edward Hopper.

A noirish jazz refrain ushers the play's central trio into troubled life. If Chris Harper's highly strung Bruno has serious mommy issues as he careers his obsessive way towards his demise, Hannah Tointon's Anne almost winds up with a gay best friend before she toughens up to save Jack Ashton's Haines.

As with the fractured heroes created by Dostoyevsky and Albert Camus, both of whom inspired Highsmith, there's a delicious ambiguity to how things pan out, with the story's period setting lending an even more uptight edge. Unlike Hitchcock, neither Highsmith or Warner have any truck with feel-good endings. So when you think Haines has no choice but to give in to Bruno's predatory ways, it's left to Anne to build the bridges that will save them both.

The Herald, January 25th 2018

ends


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