Strangers on a Train
Until Saturday, January 20
PLATO said that every person’s soul has three parts — a black horse, a white horse and a charioteer straining to keep both beasts in line.
The pale horse represents one’s morality, the dark horse is one’s more carnal impulses.
Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train charts the chance collision of two two men’s lives and their unravelling thereafter.
Guy Haines’ (Jack Ashton) horses have an uncertain hue — Charles Bruno’s (Chris Harper) are both pitch black.
Architect Guy wants only to build his dream bridge, but must first divorce his cheating wife.
Childish Charlie is just biding time, mostly in drink, while he awaits an inheritance from the father he loathes.
The latter man hits on a hairbrained plan to solve both problems at once — each will remove the other’s obstacle with a seemingly random murder.
Charlie goes through gleefully with his side of the bargain, but can he bully Guy into upholding his end?
It’s heart-in-mouth stuff from start to finish, due largely to Charlie’s unpredictable appearances.
Harper plays the perfect psychopath, swinging wildly from madcap to mellow, with no qualms about taking or ruining lives.
As he grows ever closer to Guy’s new wife, his vivid description of — and obvious delight in — the former Mrs Haines’ death rings loudly in one’s ears.
At times the character verges on comic, as when he tantrums toddler-like at mother Elsie (Helen Anderson), with whom he has a strange relationship.
But these emotional outbursts only ramp up the thrills — of what is this wildcard capable?
The set is made of mobile walls which slide to reveal bedrooms, train cars, kitchens and bars.
Scenes are projected on this huge, moving canvas, taking the action from downtown high-rise to sprawling suburb.
The system is suitably thrilling, as rooms appear and disappear — but clearly some kinks need ironing out, as more than once it got stuck.
But pulled back for the finale, a rail yard showdown is evoked perfectly well with two huge lamps and a smoke machine.
Strangers on a Train is a most delightful sort of torture. See it at Sheffield Lyceum before Sunday.