Hamish MacDonald as Guy and Roy Wallace-Cant as Charles shake on a murky deal or do they really?!

Perhaps there is a list on the internet, if one searched hard enough, of the quirkiest ever scenarios. And the quirkier the scenario, it seems to be the case, the more we are drawn to them, and the more we want to see things play out, to see how the cards fall.

Top of my list is John Huston’s  film ‘Prizzi’s Honour’ written by Richard Condon from his novel, starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner, who play two highly skilled  mob assassins who after felling deeply in love, are then told by their boss’s that their next assignment is to kill each other.

Who makes up this stuff? Well writers do, of-course. Yes sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, sure. But then sometimes writers really do come up with some weird stuff that even real life doesn’t match.

Close in quirkiness is the scenario to STRANGERS ON A TRAIN which is currently having a season at the Genesian theatre. This is Mark Warner’s stage adaptation of American novelist Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name.

Highsmith’s scenario sees two strangers meet on a train. They are playboy Charles Bruno and architect Guy Haines. They get to talking, and share their grievances. Charles’ obstacle to a good life and endless wealth is his father.  Guy has had his heart broken and wants to divorce his unfaithful wife Miriam and marry his new love, Anne, but is finding it too difficult to leave Miriam.

A lightbulb goes off in Charles’ brain and he comes up with a hair brained scheme. He suggests to Guy that there is a way t6 remove their obstacles, by exchanging murders. Charles will kill Miriam if Guy agrees to kill his  father. As they are strangers, and there is no  connection between them,  the police will never work out who committed the crimes.

They part, and Guy doesn’t really take Charles seriously. That is until, some short time later, Guy hears from Charles that he has killed his wife. Guy wants to tell the police but is worried that Charles will convince the police that he is complicit in the murder. A bizarre fantasy had turned in to a deadly reality for Guy. How will he able to extricate himself?!

This latest production hy the Genesian’s has been directed by Mark G. Nagle. He directs this bleak exploration of the human psyche with a sure touch. This is very different territory for Nagle to explore after his last Genesian Theatre Company production, a stage adaptation of E.M.Forster’s acclaimed novel, ‘A Passage To India’.

Nagle wins good performances from the cast who are all confident on stage. Roy Wallace- Cant makes for a good villain as the unhinged, manipulative Charles. Hamish MacDonald plays a decent enough Guy who lacks the spine to get out of his predicament. Jane Wallace plays Charles’ mother, Elsa, who has a. uncomfortably close relationship with her son.

Rachele Edson is appropriately coquettish as Guy’s new love, Anne. Krishnae Senthuran plays Guy’s friend Frank Myers. Chris Bocchi plays two roles, that of Guy’s wife Miriam and Robert Treacher.

Christopher Brown gives a brooding performance as Charles’ relative, Arthur Gerard, who suspects that Charles is devious.

The work of  Nagle’s creative team, comprising set designer Gregory George, veteran lighting and sound designer Michael Schell, lighting associate Cian Byrne and costume designer Helen Kohlhagen, effectively create the world of the play and the atmosphere to keel the audience engaged.

The only niggles with the play on the night. In the opening scene, the meeting on the train, as well as  the sounds of the train moving, there was a sort of muzak playing in the background. Was this meant as a layering of the narrative? No, I have since found out that this ‘sound effect’ wasn’t a fault in the production but was the result of someone’s phone going off in the audience which rang it what seemed like forever! I apologise to sound designer Michael Schell!

There was a technical glitch where a prop that was supposed to be on stage was missing, The actor kept his cool, held his pace, and and the prop, an envelope, ‘magically’ appeared. The glitch wasn’t lost on the audience with a few of us having a little good natured giggle. These things sometimes happen,

The Genesian Theatre was close if not at capacity on Friday night. So good to see this wonderful company doing well. Now in its 80th year, the Genesian’s are soon to move home to its new purpose built venue in Rozelle.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is playing between the 16th March to the 20th April with no performances during the Easter weekend.

Their next show will be Arthur Hinds play LET’S KILL AGATHW CHRISTIE. It is described as a hilarious take on the murder mystery genre. An unsuccessful writer decides to secure her own place as a literary legend by murdering the Queen of Crime – Agatha Christie. The season will play between the 4th May and the 8th June at 420 Kent Street, inner Sydney.

Featured photo : Hamish MacDonald as Guy and Rachel Edson as Anne in ‘Strangers On A Train’.Production photography by Luke Holland (LSH Media)


  1. As the sound designer on Strangers on a Train, I was perplexed by your comment regarding “a sort of muzak playing in the background”,.as there are only sound effects playing during the scene in question.
    It turns out that it was a patrons mobile phone going off!
    It is so gratifying to see that patrons take notice of the announcement to turn off their devices prior to the performance commencing!

    • Oh Michael That was what it was I
      The Muzak seemed to go on forever so I thought that it was part of the show. Most people when they hear their phone go off at an event are quick to turn the phone. Clearly this was not the case at the time! Perhaps the actors should have stopped the show for a minute and told the offending person to turn off their bloody phone It really spilt the first scene Best wishes David

  2. Oh, I see… someone corrects a fact in your review, you just delete the email and correct your stuff-up so no-one will ever know!
    Way to go, Oh Great Reviewer!

    • Hi Roger, I do take your comments seriously but I do not agree with them. 1. I didn’t delete Michhael Schell’s comment. 2. I wrote what I thought was the case at the time. The muzak/music went on for a very long period of time. I assumed that it wasn’t a mobile phone. Generally speaking, when a person’s mobile phone goes off in a theatre people are very quick to silence it. In this case the sound went on and on, so I assumed it was part of the production. In my changed review I have specifically apologised to Michael Schell. Fair is fair

  3. David: Thank you for your apology and for including the cause of ‘the muzak’ in your review.
    It turns out that the woman in question did not think that it was her phone as she had never heard that particular sound from her phone before!

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