The novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has been a sensation since it was first released in 2003. Having already spawned a hit movie starring Tom Hanks, it has now been adapted for the stage in this world premiere production.
The basic premise of the plot sees Symbologist Robert Langdon called in to assist with solving the clues surrounding the mysterious murder of the curator of the Louvre. Originally a suspect, the story goes through a number of twists and turns and ultimately leads to a search for the Holy Grail.
The original book was a gripping read so to recreate it on the stage is no easy task. This version has been adapted by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel in a surprisingly swift production which clocks in at 2 hours (including an interval). This acts as both a blessing and a curse to the script which never lets up creating a fast pace, exciting adventure. However, the other side of it loses a sense of suspense as all the mysteries are resolved in an instant, losing some of what made the original text such a captivating read.
What is immediately impressive about The Da Vinci Code is its production values. Directed by Luke Sheppard, the set design from David Woodhead is glorious for all its high-tech values. This continues throughout the production thanks to clever video projections designed by Andrzej Goulding and particularly great lighting from Lizzie Powell. This is especially effective when showing Da Vinci's paintings and the solving of clues - almost immersive in feel. For a story that takes place across different locations in different countries, it is admirable the efforts that have taken place to transport you there without actually transporting you there. While a sense of imagination is of course required, it doesn't detract from the escapism theatre provides.
Other elements didn't quite land for me. The use of music felt fairly jarring in comparison with the tone, making it feel more like a nightclub which really didn't fit in with the story. The use of movement in the play while distinctly different in its approach sometimes came across too unnatural to work, while the ever-present cast on stage didn't quite work for this story in my opinion.
Coming on to the cast - stepping in to the shoes of a role loved by so many, and so memorably played by Tom Hanks can't be easy, but Christopher Harper charms the audience as Robert Langdon, providing a capable lead for the production. Hannah Rose Caton is the perfect counterpart for him as Sophie Neveu, moving the story along and providing key connections throughout.
Danny John Jules- may be an incredible actor in his own right but he does tend to ham it up somewhat as Sir Leigh Teabing in a performance which at times felt like he was in a completely different show to the others, while Joshua Lacey perhaps lacked the menacing nature needed to convey Silas fittingly.
The tone for The Da Vinci Code felt inconsistent throughout, never quite knowing what it was going for with shifts in its nature not being acted as seamlessly as you would hope. This for me was the biggest downfall with the production. It has a lot of potential, especially with the gorgeous production value and the clearly talented cast. The story is a thrilling tale which should have the audience on the edge of their seat, but they haven't quite found the magic that elevates this to its true potential. A great stage adaptation is in there somewhere - they just need to crack the code to find it.
This production of The Da Vinci Code concludes its run this week. It was meant to play further venues over the next 3 months but sadly has had to cancel these dates.
This isn't the only touring production to have had to do this lately, with regional venues up and down the country struggling to sell tickets. The theatre was heartbreakingly empty when I attended yesterday, so if you are able to, please support your local theatre by booking to see shows there.
The Da Vinci Code concludes its run at Richmond Theatre on Saturday 7th May. Tickets available from https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-da-vinci-code/richmond-theatre/