I got half way through the book of Da Vinci Code and gave up, I got half way through the film of the Da Vinci Code and gave up. I got half way through the play of the Da Vinci Code and stayed. Whether that is a comment on this production or my poor concentration skills, I don’t know, but this was well worth staying for.
Now then, if you haven’t been sitting in a cave for the latter part of the twentieth century you’ll be more than aware of the phenomenally successful best-seller, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, it sold by the barrow load and, even if this reviewer stumbled at chapter ten, many others plundered through it merrily prompting a Hollywood movie starring Tom Hanks. It would seem inevitable, then someone should have a stab at staging it and Simon Friend Entertainment have done that very thing and a decent job they have made of it, too.
There are endless perils and pitfalls translating a novel to stage not least of which is truncating 8 to 10 hours worth of reading matter into a running time you can easily fit between your Chinese meal and bedtime. So, yes, some things get trimmed, tweaked and, especially in a somewhat clunky and lengthy final explanation of the entire events, heavily conflated. What remains is a modern day melodrama, hyped and played broadly with gusty and fun and a vague whiff of summary about it. To be honest I lost the plot – it wasn’t deployed as clearly as I would have liked – but (spoiler alert) the baddies lose. So that’s alright then.
What’s really fascinating is that director, Luke Sheppard, has opted for a style owing much to “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” a kind of brisk, cinematic feel. Less direction, more choreography in which the play becomes laden with visual clues, codes and cryptography for which we thank the stunning video design of Andrzej Goulding complimented by the tingling composition and sound design by Ben and Max Ringham.
Nigel Harman solidly led the cast with Hannah Rose Caton lending able support as Sophie Nevue. Danny John-Jules as a particularly quirky Sir Leigh Teabing. The remaining parts, including a flagellating monk (Joshua Lacey), were played by members of the cast all of whom brought strong ensemble playing to each scene.
It is engaging, harmless, brash and very fast moving. It deftly depots facts, evidence and salient plot points at great speed and, once you overcome the pretentious central conceit and the occasionally preposterous coincidences, it becomes a delight. So, my tip is keep up or watch the film or read the book before you go.
The Da Vinci Code continues at Wolverhampton Grand until the 12th March, https://www.grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/thedavincicode/
Reviewer: Peter Kinnock
Reviewed: 8th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★