Theatre Review: Love From A Stranger - Theatre Royal, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭

Review by Sharman Prince

First performed in 1936, Love From A Stranger presents us with Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) who, following a financial windfall, heedlessly abandons her old life in search of adventure when she encounters titular stranger, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum), moving with him to a remote country cottage. Cecily will come to learn, however, that Bruce is more than the romantic she thought him.

Adapted by Agatha Christie and Frank Vosper from an earlier Christie short story and play, Love From A Stranger is not one of Christie's typical whodunits though it is constructed around Christie's oft-utilised theme of identity with a naive woman at its centre. Some dialogue and situations may be somewhat dated and hard-to-believe for a modern audience but, as with all Christie, it is the mystery that continues to grasp the spectator.

Director Lucy Bailey's staging is a little uneven with the opening scene, apparently played for realism, a little staid. The remaining scenes, however, are more lively and entertainingly directed and include subtle farcical moments. But it is the final scene - a tremendously gripping tour de force - that is something else entirely: superior in every way, it is executed with precision even whilst it islightly mind-boggling.  

The moody, evocative sets by Mike Britton are used cinematically by Bailey and they are enhanced by Oliver Fenwick's lighting. Bailey, besides introducing some staging contrivances, also elects to rely on sound to create atmosphere and tension. Fortunately sound designer and composer Richard Hammarton handles his duties well and often with subtlety.

There are strong, solid performances throughout the play with Helen Bradbury ably leading the troupe as seemingly naive 'Cecily' whilst Molly Logan ('Ethel') and Nicola Sanderson ('Louise Garrard') pepper welcome light relief throughout. Justin Avoth, as jilted fiance 'Michael Lawrence', and Sam Frenchum, as 'Bruce', proffer arresting performances with Frenchum reaching great heights in the denouement. That the assured company can bring so much out of Christie and Vosper's 1930's dialogue is nothing but a credit to all of them.

Though a little muddled in its staging, Love From A Stranger nevertheless evolves into a riveting, suspense-filled thriller with some awesome performances and it captures that mystery magic for which Agatha Christie remains justly famous.

Love From A Stranger is at the Theatre Royal Glasgow until Saturday 30th June. For tickets visit ATG Tickets.