The Da Vinci Code – Review – ★★★★
The blockbuster Dan Brown book, already adapted for the big screen, reaches the stage with this entertaining touring production which delivers plenty of bang for your buck.
Perhaps no-one knew they needed (or even wanted) a stage adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code – and who are the investors who saw fit to premiere such a show in Bromley during a global pandemic? It’s a mystery worthy of Robert Langdon himself, but thankfully, the signs are that this should be a gamble that pays off.
Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have taken what feels like a light-touch approach to shifting a story that has already made the move from page to screen, on to the stage. There’s not a lot missing here that made it in to Ron Howard’s much maligned screen adaptation – but while the film underwhelmed despite it’s city (and museum) hopping treasure hunt, the experience of watching such a story played out on stage is quietly exhilarating.
They don’t really make plays like this, most likely because if an original story of this ilk was written up as a stage play, any agent or editor worth their money would immediately identify it as a screenplay in waiting. And so, theatre’s loss would be cinema’s gain. If anything, the first half is a bit of a shock to the system: things happen, and rapid-fire exposition is churned out, at such a rate that this just doesn’t feel like theatre. It’s no worse off for that.
Things slow down a bit in the second half, which is something of a relief but also probably the wrong way around. For once, here is a show that could afford to take a bit more time in the first half to really establish the scene and the characters before racing off in search of the holy grail.
The cast is, mostly, up to the challenge. Nigel Harman is a decent Robert Langdon, though he lacks what everyone lacks: the Tom Hanks charm. Langdon finds himself teaming up with Hannah Rose Caton’s Sophie Neveu – who, confusingly, has not a hint of a French accent. Never mind, after a few key interventions early on, she’s very much along for the ride (blame Dan Brown), as Langdon solves riddles left, right and centre. And, of course, he drags in Sir Leigh Teabing and his incredible grail theories. As Teabing, Danny John-Jules is having a great time, and he really is an inspired casting choice – his arrival two-thirds of the way through the first half signposts that the second tsunami of exposition is imminent, but he delivers it with style and panache, every inch the eccentric, rich hobbyist.
We’re reviewing a first night performance, so of course there were some shaky moments, and one or two of the supporting performers could – and probably will – do better. But the overwhelming takeaway is that this production will have legs. The set design is impressive, the story engaging, and the performances more than solid. We know there’s an audience for this – the only danger is that everyone already knows the story, and perhaps the writers could’ve come up with a few surprises for the majority of the audience who will already know the bugger twists.
The Da Vinci Code continues in Bromley until 15th January, and then tours the UK until 12th November 2022.