The controversial 2003 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel for its premier UK tour. Can we solve the greatest secret of last 2000 years? Well, it certainly helps if you are familiar with the book like 100,000,000 worldwide readers are or even the subsequent film starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon and Ian McKellan as Sir Leigh Teabing. Exquisitely directed by Luke Sheppard, the story is a complex and a heavily narrative one as it takes us on a pulse racing dash through Europe and the British Isles before leaving us firmly and more wisely at the Louvre in Paris, questioning the probability of a lifetime of deceit.
The story starts with American Professor Robert Langdon delivering a lecture in Paris, he receives an unexpected late night call requesting a meeting from an associate Sauniere; the curate of the Louvre; on arrival he discovers the man dead and his own name written upon the wall, making him prime suspect. Enter Sophie Neveu and thus begins a race against time and foes, to decode Sauniere’s riddles within the works of Leonardo Da Vinci’s and protect the highly guarded secret, as it is passed on to its next keeper and rightful Heir.
The set by Davis Woodhead is as intricate as the storyline, but like all cryptology it becomes clear and eye opening once you decipher its meaning and purpose. Impressively, the labyrinth of code faced by Langdon and Neveu are displayed as puzzles on the set, each a projected image and as each one is cracked the answer is revealed before our eyes – the Video Designer Andrzej Goulding needs a special mention as this is beautiful executed. Representational set is flown in to create locations and this allowed the action to move at a breakneck pace, even as the story to date is recapped at the opening of Act two.
Nigel Harman takes on the role of Professor Robert Langdon and does so with credibility but less charm than Hanks screen version, his counterpart Sophie Neveu is played by newcomer Hannah Rose Caton. The pair have chemistry on stage and even deliver a few unexpected comedic lines in the Second Act as their relationship develops. Although a little staid initially, the audience warmed to Caton’s performance as she settled into the role. The 10 strong cast were equally engaging and include the ‘Red Dwarf Cat’ himself Danny John-Jules as Sir Leigh Teabing, I did find his speech a little pacy at times with his huge amount of dialogue. The most mesmerising character on stage, with thanks to the director, writer and choreographer as well as the actor Joshua Lacey had to be the fanatic monk, Silas character. His scenes of self-flagellation were graphic and profound, he certainly unsettles the audience with his madness and menace. His death results in a beautifully created depiction of crucifixion, fleeting and never self-indulgent.
However, the highlight of the production was the detailed dramatic movement, still images and sequences devised by Tom Jackson Greaves. The cast of 10 recreate much religious iconography, the symbols and semiotics and this flanks and intensifies the fitting imagery of the art, mankind and their collective history. A thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre, mystery and self-questioning, it passed as quickly as the story progressed – at pulse racing pace! But I do ask myself, will this play have longevity? Do too many people know the ending? Could the writers have added a few surprises for us? Only time will tell, and while you can I would advise you to see, no experience it. It is different – it is naturalistic yet abstract, archaic in its subject matter but modern and fresh in its technologically lead performance.
The Da Vinci Code is showing at the Sheffield Lyceum through to Saturday 29th January 2022. https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/the-da-vinci-code
Reviewer: Tracey Bell
Reviewed: 25th January 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★