The Da Vinci Code

Can 80 million people ever be wrong? Back in 2003, The Da Vinci Code became a global publishing phenomenon, later branching out into a Hollywood film franchise. With this obvious mainstream appeal it’s perhaps not surprising that it has finally made its way on stage in this touring production.

Enjoy the show as popcorn entertainment

We meet American Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Nigel Harman) on a trip to Paris, before a series of mysterious events lead him to go on the run from a murder charge, and team up with French cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Hannah Rose Caton) in order to solve her family’s secret.

Harman is a stabilising presence for the antics that proceed around him, giving a solid performance as laidback Langdon. His co-star Hannah Rose Caton, making her UK theatrical debut as Sophie, seems less confident in delivering the occasionally absurd dialogue. Although the duo have a friendly chemistry, the stage lights up when Danny John-Jules arrives on the scene as the sprightly eccentric English scholar Sir Leigh Teabeing, complete with resplendent gold robe.

There are also notable performances from the supporting cast, particularly Debra Michaels - playing several roles, but perhaps most noticeably as a commanding nun - as well as Alasdair Buchan as the wily Remy. Leigh Lothian also managed to make a strong impression in a couple of minor roles, injecting both humour and humanity into the proceedings. However, the standout performance was from Joshua Lacey as the troubled monk Silas. His face is painted with emotional torment, and the physicality of the scene where he speaks to his mysterious ‘teacher’ made it one of the play’s highlights.

Dan Brown’s original novel was extremely successful, but attracted just as many detractors as fans. Criticism ranged from critiques of his uncomplicated writing style, to slamming his slapdash misrepresentation of historical facts. By sticking so closely to Brown’s formula for commercial success, the same criticisms can be levied at this new stage production. Characters are burdened by lengthy, exposition-heavy dialogue, and unbelievable situations. They reveal little about their inner motivations, and instead focus on moving the action to its next dramatic plot point, leaving little room for character development.

But, to be fair, The Da Vinci Code never promised it was going to be Pinter. The pacey plot and boilerplate characters serve their purpose by allowing you to sit back and simply enjoy the show as popcorn entertainment.

What is the real disappointment is that the on-stage action is highly restricted by the set design. Set and costume designer David Woodhead‘s staging is ambitious, with plenty of high tech screens, projections, and large pieces of scenery to help transport you through a multitude of locations across Paris and London. The puzzles and codes our protagonists need to crack are visualised on the main centrally placed screen, allowing the audience to try and follow the convoluted clues. This certainly brings some theatrical dynamism to what could otherwise be a dry process.

However, having a large high tech screen for most of the runtime in centrestage makes it the star by default: the cast seem a little overwhelmed by its dominance, and struggle to compete against it for both space and attention. As a result, the actors spend plenty of time skirting around it with their backs to the audience, staring at the screen with their hands in their pockets. Action sequences are short, and few and far between, with little sense of danger as assailants are quickly apprehended.

Despite these flaws, if you loved the film or the book, this new production will surely delight you. And even if your copy of The Da Vinci Code quickly found its way onto Oxfam’s shelves, don’t rule yourself out from buying a ticket: at under two hours (including the interval) this is a fun evening’s entertainment that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and is certainly an effective distraction from an outside world that right now seems to make even less sense than Dan Brown’s plot.

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Reviews by Elanor Parker

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The Blurb

The curator of the Louvre has been brutally murdered, and alongside his body are a series of baffling codes. Follow the pulse-racing journey as Professor Robert Langdon, played by Television favourite Nigel Harman (Eastenders, Hotel Babylon) and fellow cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Hannah Rose Canton) attempt to solve the riddles, leading to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and beyond, deep into the vault of history.

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