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REVIEW: The Da Vinci Code at The Everyman Theatre

The Da Vinci Code at The Everyman Theatre

The Da Vinci Code
Based on the novel by Dan Brown
Adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel
The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Rating: ★★★☆☆

From seat G9 of the stalls of the Frank-Matcham-designed Everyman Theatre, the grey-haired drama critic surveys the stage.  His attention is drawn to a large screen, upstage centre.  The screen displays a sketch by bearded polymath Leonardo da Vinci.  The drawing is of a naked, long-haired, multi-limbed man, known as “Vitruvian Man”.  The grizzled reviewer recognises this world-famous drawing from the opening titles of Granada TV’s hard-hitting current affairs programme, “World in Action”, which ran from 1963 to 1998.  Pulsing, low-pitched electronic music stimulates the critic’s amygdalae, flooding his limbic system with a sense of unease.  The fifty-eight-year-old hack opens his bottle green Moleskine notebook, removes the silver/gold Parker Sonnet Stainless Steel GT Ballpoint Pen from his breast pocket, and writes a single word: “PIZZA”.
As the lights dim, the RADA-trained-actor-turned-writer slips a Motorola Moto G5 16GB Android mobile phone from the hip pocket of his 34” Marks & Spencer khaki chinos, and sets it to airplane mode.  An amplified voice announces “Le Louvre est fermé …”, and this touring theatrical adaptation of bestselling American author Dan Brown’s blockbuster mystery thriller begins.
A curator’s lifeless body is discovered in a Louvre gallery, spreadeagled like Vitruvian Man.  The Parisian plods wrongly suspect Harvard “symbologist” Robert Langdon (Nigel “Eastenders” Harman) of murder.  Langdon teams up with the curator’s granddaughter, police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Hannah Rose Caton).  Disappointingly, the anticipated sexual tension does not materialise.  A coded message, helpfully scribbled on the wall by the dying man, is deciphered.  A villain (masochistic monk Silas, played by Joshua Lacey) performs low deeds for high purposes.  Help is sought from “billionaire historian” Sir Leigh Teabing (Danny “Red Dwarf” John-Jules), whose name sounds like a spoonerism but isn’t.  The fast-moving plot propels us from Paris to Midlothian, via Versailles and London, taking in arcane religious squabbles, the Knights Templar and the works of Pope, Wren and Newton.
The play’s characters are all subordinated to their narrative functions.  They’re puppets in the service of Brown’s complex story.  Nevertheless, the leading actors do a good job of fleshing out their parts.  There’s a disappointing, but perhaps understandable, amount of coarse acting among the supporting cast.  Accents are inconsistent and sometimes at odds with characters’ nationalities, although Nigel Harman deserves particular credit for his convincing and robust American accent.
Writers Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel have pared Brown’s byzantine plot to the bone, but this remains a convoluted caper.  Things gallop along at a giddying lick, but no theatrical production can ever achieve the condition to which this show aspires: that of a movie.  No scene change can ever be as clean as a cinematic cut.  Despite the breathless tempo and Luke Sheppard’s economical direction, things sometimes feel paradoxically slow.  Special mention goes to David Woodhead’s ingenious and versatile set, which effectively incorporates live video and projections of images and text.  These bring a vivid immediacy to the scenes in which they’re used.
Back in seat G9, the gawping wordsmith is gripped – and bamboozled – by this gloriously preposterous hokum.  After the final curtain falls, he drives home in his Volkswagen Golf Hatchback SE Navigation 1.4 TSI BMT 125PS DSG, lifts the lid of his battle-scarred MacBook Pro (2.3 GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7 processor; 16GB memory; retina display), pauses for a moment to admire the 15-inch screen’s pin-sharp resolution – remarkable for a machine of such antiquity – takes a large bite of pizza capricciosa with his surprisingly well-preserved teeth, and begins to type.
Running time: 2 hours (including interval)
The Da Vinci Code runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 26 March 2022.

Reviewer: Paul Sharples
Explore Gloucestershire
24 March 2022

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