Drawing inspiration from Hitchcock's 1938 comedy thriller, The Lady Vanishes is the story of a young Englishwoman, Iris Henderson, touring Europe by train and the mysterious unexplained disappearance of her travelling companion, Miss Froy. To make it worse, after her disappearance, no one on the train admits to ever seeing Miss Froy and a plot of secrecy and espionage slowly reveals itself through Iris's interactions with the other passengers on the train.
At least, that's the general outline of the original film's plot. For the most part, this production - put on by Big Spirit Theatre - follows that outline. Where it deviates is mainly in its pacing. The entire performance is given with a kind of scurrying speed, quickly darting from character to character and room to room, with much of the dialogue coming at the audience at a similarly exhausting pace. This is not necessarily a bad thing as, for the most part, it makes some of the interactions much funnier. The pace and unrelenting movement of players allows for a lot of humour in the chaos and clumsiness of characters entering and exiting scenes.
The whole performance is made more entertaining through its physicality as the ensemble cast - many of whom never leave the stage - hurriedly run around and become part of the set or act as a kind of chorus, speaking lines in unison at the audience or the characters in the scene. They even make up most of the set design, often using their movement to represent a bustling train station or the train’s motion.
It is clear, however, that with its use of pacing the ensemble is expecting the audience to come with some level of familiarity to the show's plot. Much of the exposition and mystery of the plot is removed and replaced with funny but shallow reveals. In total, Miss Froy was probably missing on stage for all of ten minutes before she was found quite easily. The threat implied by the mystery only makes a cameo appearance before being immediately dispersed. All of this condensing of the script is done with a self-awareness that does quite a bit towards making the play very entertaining, although ultimately rather devoid of plot.
In their retelling of The Lady Vanishes, Big Spirit have put together a production which is never dull and rather imaginatively staged. The fast pace and reduced plot make the show quite hilarious, as they are both acknowledged and utilised extensively, but without some prior knowledge of the story these elements could make the production come across as a little thin.