THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
BOX OFFICE 01752 267222
RUNNING TIME – 2 HOURS (INCLUDING ONE INTERVAL)
The many millions of people who have read Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, or seen the film or both, will be intrigued as to how it can be transferred to the theatre. A stage version of ‘The Da Vinci Code’? It certainly piqued this reviewer’s interest.
Adaptations are so tricky; you can’t please all the fans or acquaintances of the source material and you will have to make compromises and alterations to fit a dramatic stage presentation. What results in this adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel is a slickly presented, well told version of the novel – packed with many of the twists and turns of the original. An overblown novel, pared back to the essentials to make the story and play work. A few years ago Rachel Wagstaff adapted Agatha Christie’s novel ‘The Mirror Crack’d (From Side to Side)’ which was a small novel overblown by it’s treatment – it was awful.
A stylish set plays host to a myriad of projections which mesmerise the eye and mind, drawing the viewer into the action, like some kind of interactive treasure hunt; the designs of both set and video by David Woodhead and Andrzej Goulding are first class. While all the while music plays, offering a cinematic quality to proceedings; thumping beats or sacred chanting combine to bring great atmospherics as do the lighting and sound design.
The story of an innocent man caught up in intrigue and hurtling from location to location put me in mind of Hitchcock’s ‘North by Northwest’ (of which there is a brilliant stage verson) – even the direction of travel is the same – this is a caper story where all manner of events might take place and do.
As the expert on symbols, Robert Langdon, Nigel Harman is excellent; he has great stage presence and the clarity of his voice demands you listen. He plays the ‘awkward’ moments very well and just when you think the whole production may be a little too po-faced, he is able to create light relief. Hannah Rose Caton has too much of the excitable teenager about her performance to be believable as a police cryptologist and never fully convinces. Danny John-Jules verges on the too hammy as Sir Leigh Teabing, but gets away with it and he too has wonderful lines to lighten the mood. Joshua Lacey is also a very powerful presence as the deceived acolyte Silas – his self-flagellation and cilice chain tightening are pretty painful to watch.
The use of a cowled ‘Greek chorus’ is a little hit or miss, but it does give the action momentum. I am also unsure as to why Langdon and Teabing retain their native accents and the other characters (mainly French) ditch theirs.
Luke Sheppard directs with precision and style; the whole evening, including the interval, is just two hours. It is an express train of a show and thoroughly engrossing, Hokum certainly, but the audience was as still and attentive as I have seen one for many years.
CAST & CREATIVES
NIGEL HARMAN – ROBERT LANGDON
BASIENKA BLAKE – VERNET
ALASDAIR BUCHAN – REMY
HANNAH ROSE CATON – SOPHIE NEVEU
DANNY JOHN-JULES – SIR LEIGH TEABING
ALPHA KARGBO – FACHE
JOSHUA LACEY – SILAS
ANDREW LEWIS – SAUNIERE
LEIGH LOTHIAN – COLLET
DEBRA MICHAELS – SISTER SANDRINE
ADAPTATION – RACHEL WAGSTAFF & DUNCAN ABEL
DIRECTOR – LUKE SHEPPARD
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – DAVID WOODHEAD
VIDEO DESIGN – ANDRZEJ GOULDING
LIGHTING DESIGN – LIZZIE POWELL
COMPOSITION & SOUND DESIGN – BEN & MAX RINGHAM
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR – TOM JACKSON GREAVES
PHOTO CREDIT – JOHAN PERSSON