10 January 2019 (released)
12 January 2019
The first act opens on the platform of a sleepy Austrian railway station where the station master is advising passengers that an avalanche has caused unexpected delays. While waiting for the next train, we are introduced to a group of contrasting characters drawn in comedic confusion against the dark background of looming Nazi power with omnipresent swastikas. This Hitchcock film was first released in 1938, before the war but when the world was already wise to the threat posed by Hitler.
The English travellers are all keen to get home for various personal reasons and through them we see a wonderful array of English obsessions and idiosyncrasies. There is the lovely Iris, aspiring to become a lady by marrying her aristocratic fiancé a “blue blooded cheque chaser”. The politically ambitious lawyer Todhunter, at pains to hide his illicit dalliance with the romantically disappointed Margaret. We’re treated to light relief by the affable cricket enthusiasts, Charters and Eric, desperate not to miss the Test Match. The nerdy young Max is passionate in his obsession with collecting samples of European folk music. As these characters swirl across the stage, Miss Froy, an English governess, sits calm and collected in their midst, this quiet unassuming woman is the eponymous ‘lady’ at the centre of the play. Iris falls asleep after a knock to her head; when she wakes, she finds the friendly Miss Froy has vanished. The mystery really starts when the other characters claim not to have ever seen or encountered her.
The dramatic device of the rail journey drives the action and plot of this tale as the pace quickens in the second act. We know Miss Froy must still be on the train but where and why is her presence being hidden? A disparate group of people are yoked together by the circumstance of sharing the same journey. Eventually the characters can’t continue acting separately, being driven by their own agendas. They must unite and work collectively to escape a dark fate.
This group of actors are accomplished theatre and film performers from Juliet Mills, eldest daughter of John Mills and a stalwart of British Theatre to Matt Barber who many viewers will recognise from his role as Lily’s love interest Atticus Aldridge in Downton Abbey. Despite their acting credentials there are a few elements that are hard to pull off when transferring this story from screen to stage. The fake punches of the fight scenes are only convincing from specific angles and the romantic chemistry between the leads doesn’t seem convincing. However, the comedic element is dialled up and the audience were certainly highly amused by this entertaining classic thriller.