One of Alfred Hitchcock’s early films, The Lady Vanishes is a comedy thriller set on a train in Austria in 1938, just before the outbreak of war. Like the 39 steps, the plot revolves around a spy who has to get information to HQ.
The story translates very well to the stage, with just two sets: the train station and the train itself. When I say that the set is the best part about it I mean absolutely no disrespect to the actors. They do an excellent job, but the 1930s design of the railway station and train is amazingly atmospheric and works beautifully with the chilling music and sound effects.
The story begins when a group of people meet on a station platform, having been turfed off a train because of an avalanche. You get a sense of who the various characters are before the snow is cleared and they get back on the train. A young woman travelling home to England to get married hooks up with an elderly lady, Miss Froy, also returning home after working in Austria as a governess.
When Miss Froy disappears on the train the young woman and the irritating young man she also met on the station platform make it their mission to find her, and uncover a dastardly plot. It is very much of its time, with plucky Brits giving Johnny Foreigner a run for his money, but it is very funny and extremely well executed. Lorna Fitzgerald (of Eastenders fame) plays the young woman; Juliet Mills is Miss Froy and her real life husband Max Caulfield plays the slippery Viennese doctor who is not what he seems.
The Lady Vanishes is just on at Richmond theatre for one week, until Saturday.