One of the things I love most about living in Manchester is the many galleries, theatres and music venues we have dotted all over the city. There’s an opportunity for a quick culture fix on virtually every corner. I’ve enjoyed countless shows at The Royal Exchange, Bridgewater Hall and The Palace, but despite living here for for eight years, I had never visited the Opera House. That changed this week when I was invited to the historic venue to the opening night of Strangers On A Train.
The Opera House has been around for more than 100 years and is a Grade II listed building. It has had many guises in its time and has been a bingo hall and a cinema, before relaunching as a theatre in 1984. Inside it feels cosy and classical, with a traditional green and gold colour scheme. There’s old-school touches like velvet seats and binoculars for hire that add to the sense of occasion.
But enough about the venue, we were here to see a play, and what a show it was! Strangers On A Train is based on the classic murder mystery thriller by Patricia Highsmith, which was later adapted into a hit Hitchcock film. The cast was fantastic, with the four main characters all on-screen favourites of mine. Christopher Harper (Coronation Street’s Nathan Curtis) plays Charles Bruno, while Jack Ashton (Call The Midwife’s Jack Ashton) plays Guy Haines. Hannah Tointon (Mr Selfridge) and John Middleton (Emmerdale) complete the lineup. The four key characters were all brilliant and to say this was the opening night there were no hiccups from any of them.
Aside from the acting, the production and staging of the play made for a slick and believable show. The set was clever, stylish and intriguing, quickly switching between different rooms and properties of the main protagonists to draw you in to their intertwined, complex lives. I loved the mid-century outfits, interiors and styling too.
Perhaps one of the most pleasantly surprising things was how much I laughed during this dark, twisted saga. While the plot is undeniably chilling and makes you consider some serious ethical dilemmas, Harper’s excellent portrayal of Bruno had me giggling throughout. His complex, manipulative character has a comedic edge that added some light relief at some of the darkest points of the tale.
I’d highly recommend catching this play if you can. It’s only in Manchester until Saturday 10th February, but it’s also touring the UK until the end of March. It will be in Woking 12-17 February, Richmond 19-24 February, York 5-10 March and Aylesbury 19-24 March. Head to ATGTickets.com for more info and to book.