28th January, 2005
The Third Man, Brunton Theatre

DARK and brooding, this stage version of Graham Greene's film realises it can never escape the shadow of the original.

Instead, the Red Shift theatre company are so effective in the use of tension and images from the film, you can be hard pressed to know where the two differ.

Yet this is much more than film noire on stage. There's the set - five interlocking tower-like constructions, moved around the characters to create the dreary feel of post-WW2 Vienna.

Their outline reminds you of bombed-out buildings but also, when turned round, they are like the walkways of a prison, high above the stage. The mesh floors cast crazed shadows. Broken windows are used to frame the action and draw it right in to the actors.

Then there is a superb performance from Antony Gabriel as Rollo Martins, the pulp fiction writer who has gone out to the occupied city to meet his old school chum Harry Lime - but ends up standing over Lime's grave.

And in trying to work out who killed him, ends up leaving his own trail of dead bodies, not of his making.

Gabriel spends most of the production in one stage of drunken inebriation or another - and never fails to convince.

He is a truly despicable character, sneering at army police officer Colonel Calloway (Andrew Forbes) and leering at Lime's grieving "actress" girlfriend, Anna Schmidt (Siri Ingul).

A deliberately evocative score adds its own stylish atmosphere, while a cleverly used on-stage camera provides a fixed - and very different - view of each scene which is displayed on black and white TV screens around the edge of the set.

As Rollo finds out more and more about his dead chum, the tension builds up into a quite enthralling piece of work, until the dark unmistakable silhouette of a snub-nosed pistol creeps across the television screens.