The Da Vinci Code, from the novel by Dan Brown – 15th February 2022 – Theatr Clwyd

I’ve read Dan Brown’s thriller regarding Catholic conspiracy and murderous Opus Dei monks, I’ve watched Ron Howard’s film adaptation, and now here I am watching Luke Sheppard’s theatre adaptation. You would be forgiven for thinking I am a mega-fan of Dan Brown, but you’d be wrong – much like the Harry Potter books, I only read the Dan Brown novels because I didn’t want to miss out on what everyone else was raving about. I was intrigued to see how all the complex plot twists and turns would be negotiated on the stage, (plus Danny John-Jules, best known for Red Dwarf, was due to tread the Theatr Clwyd boards!)

The curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris, Jacques Sauniere, has been brutally murdered. At the side of his body are a series of baffling codes, and more importantly, a message to the police to find the symbologist Prof. Robert Langdon. Nigel Harmon (Eastenders) played the role of Robert Langdon, the professor and symbolist, and Hannah Rose Caton played his fellow fugitive and police cryptologist Sophie Neveu who join forces to solve the complex puzzles. Their quest leads them to the works of Leonardo da Vinci and into the depths of history to solve both the murder and break a labyrinthine code so that a historical secret is not lost forever.

There is little character development and none of the police chasing scenes you read in the book, instead the strength of the production lies in David Woodhead’s set, Andrzej Goulding’s video projections and Ben and Max Ringham’s electro music which gives the show the energy and pace required to keep the intrigue going.

On entering the theatre, an enlarged Vitruvian Man dominates the stage, further projections during the course of the play link the works of Leonardo da Vinci to signify changes of place and time. The actors are seated against the side walls, appearing now and again in cleverly choreographed pieces.

Of course, we’re still in Covid times, and it was disappointing to see that Danny John-Jules was unable to join the cast in Mold, and instead he was replaced by Andrew Lewis to play the key role of Sir Leigh Teabing, an expert on the Holy Grail. This change of cast did not detract from the play at all as this is a strong cast, with members playing a variety of roles throughout. Joshua Lacey needs a shout out playing the murderous monk, Silas; he looms over the proceedings with a dark foreboding and the scene of self-torture is both disturbing and believable.

The production is slick and fast-paced as you would expect, however, sit tight through the second half, because if you thought the first half was fast, then the second half is like a tornedo whipping through you. There is no time to relax during this 2 hour rollercoaster ride, if your mind wanders elsewhere for a second you will miss a vital part of the plot, and there’s no rewind button in the theatre! It’s a shame really, because the key part of the book was the mystery and unravelling thereof, whereas the play feels too rushed and things don’t quite add up. It was an ambitious undertaking to bring this story to the stage, and whilst it was an enjoyable evening and the play was definitely worth watching, it does need a few tweaks here and there to balance the original mystery and the final reveal. 

One thing I almost took literally from my previous visit to Theatr Clwyd was taking a hot water bottle with me. It’s not often I feel the cold, but with the current renovations* going on, the Anthony Hopkins Theatre is blummin freezing. I thought I’d been clever putting on two pairs of socks, vest, t-shirt and jumper but no, during the interval the coat had to come on. Not a great look from the front row, but hearing someone’s teeth chattering is probably a distraction for the actors too!

The Da Vinci Code, from the novel by Dan Brown

Theatr Clwyd – Anthony Hopkins Theatre

Robert Langdon: Nigel Harman (Chris Harper from 26th April 2022 to 30th July 2022)
Vernet: Basienka Blake
Remy: Alasdair Buchan
Sophie: Hannah Rose Caton
Sir Leigh Teabing: Danny John-Jules
Fache: Alpha Kargbo
Silas: Joshua Lacey
Sauniere: Andrew Lewis
Collet: Leigh Lothian
Sister Sandrine: Debra Michaels

*Theatr Clwyd is undergoing a major renovation project - see link for details