STAGE REVIEW: The Lady Vanishes - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, March 19 to Saturday, March 23, 2019.

HERE’S a riotously ripping yarn straight from the pages of a Boy’s or Girl’s Own escapade!

It’s also a thriller with a considerable undercurrent of humour which provided a couple of hours of immensely enjoyable theatre.

Swastika banners hang high above a bustling German railway station as the Second World War looms ever near - no longer a speck on the horizon, while the concourse is abuzz with passengers, porters and threatening Nazi officials.

The mainly British travellers are keen to move on with their homeward journey but an avalanche has halted their Zurich-bound train.

Considerable frustration but so convenient for the audience to learn more about those hoping to head home.

There’s Lorna Fitzgerald’s socialite Iris, who’s due to marry a lord, Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon’s delightfully eccentric cricket-mad companions Charters and Caldicott, along with lawyer Eric (Philip Lowrie), attempting to keep a low profile, and his mistress Margaret (Elizabeth Payne) and also the dependable, practical and considerably demonstrable Max (Matt Barber).

Thrown into the mix is Maxwell Caulfield’s smooth yet suspicious Dr Hartz, an affable Italian (Mark Carlisle) - who is not all he seems, and a seriously stern Nazi officer (Joe Reisig).

And we mustn’t forget Miss Froy - played by Juliet Mills, one of the jewels of the Mills acting dynasty which stretches back over the past seven or so decades.

At least we believe Miss Froy was there!

All in all darn good cast! And they deliver the goods.

Antony Lampard’s adaptation from Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1938 film, together with Roy Marsden’s directorial skills, has this ‘all aboard’ drama rattling along the rails at a fair old lick and all the better for it.

It sees Iris wake up in her compartment to find kindly Miss Froy no longer there but other passengers say she never was on the train. Could the head blow she suffered as the journey was about to begin have affected her? She begins to wonder about her sanity… imagination or has the lady actually vanished?

Max and Iris join forces as action-packed heroes seeking the ever stylish Mills’ missing lady, while Charters and Caldicott are played with warmth, wit and charm by Duncan and Nealon.

All the characters provide enjoyable entertainment. They offer bags of energy, some with great physicality, and there’s the perfect mix of tension and a good degree of humour.

Morgan Large’s set is also excellent, taking you deep into the heart of busy terminus as steam drifts as menacingly as the rise of the Third Reich, and it also has the audience feeling it's in the adjoining compartment as the train rolls on with its dramatic events.

This much-loved thriller still holds its own and delivers exceptionally well on all levels.