Playing at the Theatre Royal Bath until 5 February
You don’t have to have read American author Dan Brown’s multi million-selling 2003 novel to enjoy this brand-new stage production of The Da Vinci Code. Similarly, you don’t need to have seen Ron Howard’s 2006 film version, nor indeed know anything at all about cryptology, the Gnostic gospels, the cult of Opus Dei, the layout of the Louvre or multiple conspiracy theories around Jesus Christ’s personal life.
Would it help, however, if you were au fait with any of the hugely complex back story that led to Brown penning his fantastical 170,000-word magnum opus that brings all those mystical, philosophical and – to many cadres – controversial themes together in a tale that could basically be filed under the heading ‘crime thriller’ before you take to your theatre seat? Yet again: no – because an impressively slick combination of set, video, lighting, soundscapes and cutting edge technology will, loosely speaking, do all the hard work (as in, keeping attention levels up at the back when the plot gets way, way too over-fantastical) for you.
In the role of American symbologist RobertLangdon, Nigel Harman is suitably geeky and cleverly under-dynamic; there’s a fast pace going on here, and Harman’s reluctance to keep up to speed adds to, rather than retracts from, the high-tempo, frenetic fervour of the whole affair. But as Langdon’s sidekick Sophie Neveu, Hannah Rose Caton occasionally tries to get too far ahead with that high-tempo fervour; when the duo have been chased across continents by various intimidating gremlins including a mad monk, a power-crazy ‘butler’ and two police forces without, apparently, eating, drinking or sleeping, would she really be able to keep up the breathless witty banter and the girlish giggles? But in all fairness to Caton, this is pretty much how Brown portrayed Neveu in the book, so perhaps she’s just doing her job. Similarly, Danny John-Jules’ Holy Grail-obsessed Sir Leigh Teabingfollows Brown’s ‘insert no charisma here’ character notes, leaving Alisdair Buchan to inject a much-needed shot of Bond villain-style into his portrayal of Teabing’s servant-with-his-own-secret Remy, the pair eventually giving us what’s ostensibly a classic double-bluff, double-act of scheming master subsequently pitted against his even more scheming manservant. Ultimately though, it’s left to Joshua Lacey as the self-flagellating monk/Opus Dei hitman Silas to add some properly sinister menace to the overall spectacle… and Lacey picks up the mantle with aplomb.
So: why was Louvre curator JacquesSaunière murdered in the first place – and what’s the relevance behind the numbers 13–3–2–21–1–1–8–5? Langdon and Neveu eventually decipher the code, by which time the audience has been dazzled by all manner of theatrical and symbolic wizardry… and leaves the theatre secure in the knowledge that they can now include book, film and play in their own initial clues next time they’re presenting their own Charades.
The Da Vinci Code is playing at the Theatre Royal Bath until 5 February. Tickets can be bought online at theatreroyalbath.org.uk
Featured image: Danny John-Jules as Sir Leigh Teabing and Hannah Rose Caton as Sophie Neveu in The Da Vinci Code | all photography by Johan Persson