Tuesday 20 June 2023

The Third Man - Review

Menier Chocolate Factory, London


Music by George Fenton
Lyrics & book by Don Black & Christopher Hampton
Directed by Trevor Nunn

Sam Underwood and Natalie Dunne

Film noir clearly has an attraction for Don Black and Christopher Hampton. Having translated Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard from screen to stage, they now fix their canon on Carol Reed’s 1949 Oscar-winner The Third Man. Set to George Fenton’s score, Graham Greene’s Vienna-based story of mystery, romance and murderous corruption plays out in a modestly staged production at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

It’s an ambitious conceit to take such a tightly focused movie, famous for its shadows, intrigue and of course THAT theme tune, but Black and Hampton’s treatment under Trevor Nunn’s directing, never takes itself too seriously. Sam Underwood plays Holly Martins, the American writer (Why was it always an American writer who’s the protagonist in these tales of the 1930s and 40s? Sunset Boulevard, Cabaret etc etc) who finds himself caught up in the Austrian capital's murky black-market world as he searches for his old friend Harry Lime. Those familiar with the story will know of Lime’s treachery and it is a credit to this production as to how the serpentine twists of Greene’s plot are revealed.

Natalie Dunne smoulders with delicious contempt as femme fatale Anna Schmidt and there is an equally impressive turn from the talented Simon Bailey. The show’s ensemble make up a raft of two-dimensional characters that all add to creating the show’s Vienna-lite experience.

Above the performing space Tamara Saringer’s band are a delight, with Fenton’s score reverently acknowledging Anton Karas’ famous Harry Lime Theme from the movie, with the occasional motif. Down below, Paul Farnsworth’s set designs effectively utilise the Menier’s grimy heritage.

A loving tribute to a classic movie, The Third Man makes for an evening of charming musical theatre.

Runs until 9th September
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan

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