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  • Writer's pictureJordan Anderson

Genesian Theatre Company: Strangers on a Train - Review by Jordan Anderson

Updated: Mar 22


Photo by LSH Media (Luke Holland)

You know a show is good when you spend all of interval discussing what you think is going to happen in the second half. I have to say I stole that line from my date to the theatre, but she’s not wrong.  Genesian Theatre Company have created a thoroughly engaging and intriguing thriller that despite being based on a novel and movie from the 1950’s, feels remarkably timeless.

 

            For those not in the know, ‘Strangers on a Train’ by Craig Warner is based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith, which incidentally was turned into an Alfred Hitchcock film, just 1 year after publication.  It tells the story of two strangers, Charles Bruno and Guy Haines, who meet on a transcontinental train journey and realise that the only thing standing between them and their own happiness is a single adversary each. Of course, the best option is to commit murder, but rather than them taking the lives of their own aggressor, they swap. What’s to link them to the crime as they’re just two ships passing in the night.

 

            I didn’t know much walking into the theatre, but this I knew, after all the idea has been parodied to death in modern pop culture. However, the show is so much more than just this concept. It’s a true delve into the human psyche and the limits of the goodness that exist inside of a person.  Genesian Theatre Company have assembled an excellent team, led by Director Mark G. Nagle to bring this production to life. There was evidently a very strong vision that Mark had, and all aspects of the show lent themselves to further this idea.  One particular point of the direction that I loved, is the setting of the play in Australia and opting for a more modern time period rather than the 1950’s setting.  I tend to find that hearing the Australian accent on stage can be quite jarring, even by Aussie actors, but special care had obviously been given to getting the flow of the script feeling natural and at times quite beautiful, especially evident between the two lead actors.  I found that this really helped ground the play and make it feel more accessible to the audience.

 

Photo by LSH Media (Luke Holland)

            One of the most striking attributes I would like to mention is the Set Design by Gregory George.  The set was adaptive, clever and utilised effectively without detracting from the story or the movement on stage. Some really simple effects like leaving a door adjar or opening the blinds, not only changed the location of the scene but gave fascinating insights into the mental state of the characters.  Walking hand in hand with the set design is the lighting and sound design by Michael Schell, with lighting associate Cian Byrne.  It was clear that the show was racing forward like a thriller, and the design elevated this to the next level, especially during the climax of act 1.  Very clever use of LED tape in the set was a brilliant addition and well worth, I’m sure the many extra hours it would have taken to put together.  I also must mention Costumes by Helen Kohlhagen, they effectively told the story of the characters and where they were in their journey.  I was a particular fan of Guy Haines being in the darker clothes and Charles Bruno in the white, like an inverse of Plato’s Horses.

 

            Of course, the show would be nothing without its cast to help bring it all to life.  Krishae Senthuran and Cris Bocchi as Frank Meyers and Roberta Treacher respectively, had some lovely moments on stage, acting as a small comedic relief to the more sinister plot points at force and humanising the relationship of Guy and Anne.  Christopher Brown as Arthur Gerard had the hardboiled detective down pat, bringing the rugged assurance of a man who has been doing this for a long time.  His work as the foil to Charles Bruno was expertly crafted, bringing the tough love in an almost fatherly way.  In the opposite of tough love was Jane Wallace as Elsa Bruno, Charles Mother.  Jane weaved together a character that seemed just slightly detached from reality but obviously full of love for her child, perhaps too much.  It’s not easy to play the mother of a psychopath, but Jane did a wonderful job.

 

Photo by LSH Media (Luke Holland)

            Rachele Edson as Anne Faulkner was beautiful to watch on stage.  She played the supportive fiancé beautifully, wanting to be there for Guy and confused by the distance he was putting between them.  The only time I found the script to feel a little dated was in its treatment of Anne, however Rachelle handled it wonderfully and made it her own.  And her entrance in her last scene was one of my favourite parts of the show.


            Finally, but well worth the wait, I have to mention the 2 stars of the show, Hamish MacDonald as Guy Haines and Roy Wallace-Cant as Charles Bruno.  Together and separately these 2 young actors were fantastic and worked exceedingly well together.  Hamish played the man on the brink of a nervous breakdown incredibly skilfully, his anxiety and despair radiated off of him until it was palpable in the audience and you could really see how much the events of the play were eating him up.  Conversely, Roy had the charm and the charisma of a psychopath in buckets, you couldn’t help but like him until it was too late and you realised, he was a virus slowly implanting himself and affecting you.  He looked like the man that was always in charge and when he wasn’t, the pay-off was delicious. While these two actors were fantastic when they played against each other it was a joy to watch them with the other actors. When Hamish was with Rachelle you could see how much his secret was eating him up and there was something about the relationship between Roy and Jane that just wasn’t right, that they teased beautifully, just to help give that off feeling to the audience.

 

            I don’t want to say too much else as I don’t want to ruin the show, but go see it, that’s all I’ll say.  Geneseian Theatre Company and everyone involved should be incredibly proud of this production they’ve put on.  I give this production, 4 and a half glasses of scotch on the rocks.

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