I have to be honest and say I wasn’t exactly bowled over by this new book to screen to stage adaptation of Dan Brown’s multi-million selling thriller. As stylish as it was, it just didn’t grab me, especially in the second half when the script went into overdrive explaining what was going on. I found myself drifting away with all the wordy details of ancient conspiracies, murderous monks and double-crossing sleuths. Not that it wasn’t staged well and had an efficient cast… it just wasn’t for me.
The Da Vinci Code has been one of the most read books in recent years with 80 million copies sold, and the block buster movie was also well received, so there’s no denying the success of this code breaking whodunnit. Fully endorsed by the author, Luke Sheppard has done a good job in directing the piece and pulling the main story elements together into an hour and forty-five minutes. He has stayed faithful to the story, but the required pace and frenetic delivery didn’t allow for any real character development, and we are left to follow the story as best as we can. We are thrown headfirst into the story and don’t come up for air throughout.
Faced with a dead body in the Louvre Museum and some mysterious luminescent clues, Robert Langdon and his quickly adopted side kick Sophie Neveu set off on a wild and often complicated journey to seek the ultimate prize of the Holy Grail. With a deranged and determined monk of the Opus Dei order in pursuit, they barely have time to breath as they cross Europe on their Da Vinci quest. Nigel Harmen (Eastenders) plays Langdon and, in her stage debut, Hannah Rose Caton is Sophie – they work well together but didn’t exactly light up the stage.
There is a little more noticeable stagecraft from Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf, Death in Paradise) as Langdon’s double-crossing buddy (spoiler alert!), Sir Leigh Teabing. His touches of humour and character delivery add alight relief to what is otherwise quite heavy and wordy. Mention must also be given to Joshua Lacey as Silas, the monk seeking repentance – his committed and honest portrayal provides the required threat and trauma. It was the creative staging that worked really well though and kept my interest throughout.
A simple square box set, basic props and the stylish use of projections and lighting allowed scenes to transform easily. Projected clouds drifted by as they flew to England and walls of museums are represented by paintings and architraves. A raised stage with underfloor lighting also allowed for some very effective effects too. There was even live camera work incorporated in parts which brought a creepy immediacy to those scenes.
The cast also provided additional stylised choreography to good effect – moving in synchronised formations from one scene to another with an electronic soundtrack playing in the background. The visual projections and screens assisted in following some of the clues too as you had a chance to have a quick read to try and work out what their solutions were referring to. I didn’t work out any of the clues throughout the whole show!
So, all in all, this fast-paced thriller was entertaining and a decent distraction but unfortunately didn’t fully deliver for me. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it though and I am sure the lengthy nationwide tour, running through November, will have no problem keeping up with respectable ticket sales. Recommended to fans of the book or thrillers in general.