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The Da Vinci Code at Theatre Royal Brighton | Review

Dan Brown’s 2003 novel has sold 80 million copies worldwide, as well as being made into a film starring Tom Hanks.

Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have now adapted it into a play, concentrating solely on the plot, and turning it into an exciting, fast-paced, two-hour roller-coaster of thrills. In fact, the story passes so quickly that if one relaxes one finds that one has missed something vital!

Nigel Harman as Robert Langdon, The Da Vinci Code, by Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative.
Nigel Harman as Robert Langdon, The Da Vinci Code, by Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative.

For those who have never read what was at the time quite a controversial book, or have never seen the film, The Da Vinci Code follows “symbologist” Robert Langdon and “cryptologist” Sophie Leveu after a murder in The Louvre Museum causes them to become involved in a battle between The Priory of Zion and Opus Dei over the possibility of Jesus and Mary Magdalene having had a child together.

Langdon was effortlessly portrayed by Nigel Harman who was the epitome of the role: he has a voice that is easy on the ear and was able to lead us through the intricacies of the plot with assurance.

Hannah Rose Caton looked the role of Sophie, and her rapport with Langdon was obvious, but occasionally the voice was too softly spoken in relation to Langdon’s. She also appeared not to know what to do with her hands at times, resorting to frequently folding her arms, which seemed too casual and out of character.

The role of “very British” stiff upper lip, eccentric, Sir Leigh Teabing, an expert on The Holy Grail, was given to Danny John-Jules, who, following his roles in TV’s Red Dwarf and Murder in Paradise, seems to have been the main reason why many of the audience had come to see the play! He did not disappoint, but one would like to see him in a major stage role as he is a very watchable, charismatic, actor.

Among the ten-strong ensemble, Debra Michaels impressed as Sister Sandrine as did Basienka Blake as Vernet.

Director Luke Sheppard obviously realised that not only did this play need to proceed with a great deal of energy, it also needed to flow seamlessly from one often very short scene to another, but also allowed the piece to breathe occasionally so that the audience could relax briefly before the next onslaught of the plot. Particularly impressive were the use of physical theatre techniques for some surreal moments, as well as the use of music and sound (Max and Ben Ringham) to enhance the mood at various times.

The impressive set was designed by David Woodhead, contriving to make the stage at Brighton much deeper and wider than it actually is, and stretching up into the flies, its various shades of blue and gold instantly reminding one of The Louvre, Saint Sulpice, The Temple Church in London etc, as well as the interior of an aircraft with the aid of various items flown in and out. Very effective lighting was designed by Lizzie Powell, allowing actors’ faces always to be seen, except when they were standing downstage which seemed often to be in shadow.

Chatting to members of the audience during the interval, all were clearly enjoying The Da Vinci Code, whether or not they had read, let alone remembered, the novel or movie! It is on an extended 36 week/venue tour, ending in November, the nearest theatres to central London being ATG’s Richmond Theatre (May 3-7) and New Victoria Woking (10 – 14 May). Warmly recommended – but go being prepared to concentrate!!

4 stars

Review by John Groves

The Curator of the Louvre has been brutally murdered, and alongside his body are a series of baffling codes. Follow the pulse-racing journey as Professor Robert Langdon, and fellow cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Hannah Rose Canton) attempt to solve the riddles, leading to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and beyond, deep into the vault of history. With guidance from teacher and friend Sir Leigh Teabing, Langdon and Neveu embark on a breathless race through the streets of Europe. The pair must decipher the labyrinthine code before a shocking historical secret is lost forever.

Based on the best-selling novel of this century, with over 100 million copies sold, unlock the secrets of The Da Vinci Code in the world premiere stage adaptation of the international phenomenon and uncover the truth in the greatest thriller of the past 2000 years.

The Da Vinci Code is at Theatre Royal Brighton
from Tuesday 15th March, 2022 to Saturday 19th March, 2022.

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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