The Third Man ★★★★ The Menier Chocolate Factory | Jun 10 - Sep 9, 2023

This current musical adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, which became one of the acknowledged classics of the cinema, does a simply splendid job of creating the atmosphere of post-WWII Vienna which dominates the story. From the opening number we are brilliantly situated in Greene's world of disconcerting despair and moral murkiness. As Holly Martins, the writer of ethically simplistic cowboy novels who wanders into the web of deception inhabited by his friend, Harry Lime, Sam Underwood puts in a first-rate performance. His naïveté is palpable and his earnestness is endearing. We easily identify with the simplicity of his black and white vision of the world as it is challenged by the infinite shades of moral grey that make up his new environment. It is only Anna Schmidt, Lime's girlfriend, who brings some colour into this drab environment and lights Martins' world with a glimpse of self-sacrificing love. As the cabaret singer, Schmidt, Natalie Dunne brings a fine combination of hopefulness, loyalty and world-weariness to her portrayal of Lime's abandoned lover. The plot of the story is complicated, and sometimes the fidelity to the narrative might have been pared back to make it easier to follow. We also kept waiting for the blockbuster song which never appeared. The music is evocative, but it never achieves the significance of the unforgettable "Third Man Theme" which appears at a couple of points during the show. Paul Farnsworth's set and costumes are a triumph. Both succeed in intelligently setting and reinforcing the themes of the production without ever becoming obtrusive. Welcome to the beguiling world of the musical noir!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

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