Based on the world renowned 1950 novel by Patricia Highsmith, and universally famous Alfred Hitchcock film, Craig Warner sees Strangers on a Train into the theatrical spectrum. If you are into atmospheric, thrilling murder crimes, this production is one to watch out for. Following the story of a faithful encounter between two men in the dining carriage of a train crossing America. An unbelievable, yet daring plan develops sparked by a simple casual conversation. It consequently results in a thrilling psychological crime plot.
Heading to Theatre Royal Brighton on Fri 5 – Sat 13 Jan, the stage is transformed into a spectacle crime scene. Directed by Anthony Banks, after this year’s hugely successful production of Gaslight. Anthony was an associate director at the National theatre until 2014 commissioning and developing one hundred new plays for NT Connections. Given the opportunity to interview Actress Hannah Tointon, famous for her roles in Mr Selfridge (alongside her sister, Kara), The Inbetweeners and Hollyoaks, we jumped at the chance. Hannah plays the part of fiancé to one of the troubled strangers Guy, Anne Faulkner. On speaking to Hannah Tointon, the actors were yet to start rehearsals for the play. However, the excitement in her voice keenly showed her enthusiasm to undertake the challenge of the psychological murder thriller, saying joyfully “I can’t wait to start!”
Having begun in the world of theatre from just the young age of twelve, working on a West-End show, Hannah had since only worked on one play since, Negative Space. Although her acting career has mainly been in television, more recently she has begun focusing on theatre productions, “You have so much more time and it’s where you learn the most.” With the play adaptation undertaking a slightly different technique and perspective than the traditional novel and film, the play seeks to create a sense of thrill and suspense atmosphere for all the audience.
Hannah began by saying she had not seen Hitchcock’s adaptation film, as writer Craig and director Anthony had advised not to. Currently reading the book, she is fully immersed, obsessing over every slight detail, “I’m so fully absorbed, and I just cannot stop reading.” Rereading the play numerous times, Hannah has been able to absorb herself entirely before undertaking the role and rehearsals. One of the biggest challenge throughout everyday life can be the hinderance of nerves, which is intensified for Hannah through acting. “I’m really nervous,” in undertaking this new role, as she says it’s slightly different to her usual roles, “She’s slightly older, she has social status.” The list went on. As well as traditionally working on television, there is an added pressure for Hannah as with theatre there’s more opportunity to go wrong on the night. In preparation, the actors have been undergoing dialect coaching, working on their voices and breathing techniques, acting coaching. Hannah likes to absorb herself into her roles: “I like to watch stuff, get ideas from other actresses and find inspiration into similar characters.”
Murder mysteries are forever popular as a genre, so I ask what makes this play stand out. “It’s different as you do know who has done the murder but you can’t quite believe it. It’s a kind of nightmare scenario: someone has taken such a passing comment and has actually gone and done the murder.” The narrative is packed with manipulation and psychological discourse, with the killer moving around undetected, yet slowly they become more trapped. As audiences, we get to see the repercussions of their crime and how it impacts each of the characters. Fellow fans of the novel, as well as the film should enjoy as it lives up to expectations – incorporating all the traditional techniques of a psychological drama, with a dark wit and on-the-edge tension.
Strangers on a Train performances begin in Brighton, where it will then follow onto other renowned cities including Glasgow, Manchester and London. For Hannah though, after the play she hopes to continue in the footsteps of her childhood career, and continue within the theatre ndustry.
Strangers on a Train, with Hannah Tointon, comes to Theatre Royal Brighton on Fri 5 – Sat 13 Jan 2018.