Love From A Stranger is a 1936 play by Frank Vosper, based on the short story Philomel Cottage by Agatha Christie. It’s currently on tour, directed by Lucy Bailey, and I went to see it in Richmond.
Set initially in London, the play charts the meeting between newly-moneyed Cecily Harrington (Helen Bradbury) and the American would-be tenant of her apartment, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum), which leads to a whirlwind romance, a quick marriage and a dream house in the country. But is Bruce really who he says he is? And will Cecily’s best friend Mavis (Alice Haig) and former fiance Michael (Justin Avoth) be able to help her?
As befits a Lucy Bailey production, this is stylish and atmospheric, with moving panels, panes of glass and dramatic lighting to gloss over some of the clunkier parts of the play. It must be admitted that the pace is slow; there is no real tension in the meeting between Cecily and Bruce, and little urgency in the hints shown to us of Bruce’s true nature. When the denouement finally comes, everything seems to happen in the last fifteen minutes.
The performances are good, particularly from Sam Frenchum as Bruce Lovell, the ‘stranger’, and Nicola Sanderson provides comic relief as an interfering aunt. Overall, though, while Love from a Stranger passed the time pleasantly enough, it didn’t grip me nearly as much as The Unexpected Guest which I saw last week.