Rollo Martins arrives in Vienna to meet up with his old schoolfriend Harry Lime, only to find that Lime has apparently been killed in a car accident. But as he hears conflicting versions of what happened, he begins to suspect it was murder, and turns detective. British Military Policeman Colonel Calloway warns him of the dangers of meddling as Lime was a black marketeer, but Martins is determined to find out the truth - and besides, he has fallen for Harry's girl, Anna.
Restoring Calloway's function as narrator as well as protagonist (omitted in the film) works well on stage. Holloway's decision to make Martins (as well as Lime) British rather than American is also fine but, strangely, he is still a writer of Westerns - why not change this to thrillers, say? The famous scene in the Prater fairground is nicely expressed with a moving silhouette of the ferris wheel, but the climactic chase in the sewer is not sufficiently exciting.
Neil Irish's ingenious set beautifully evokes bomb-damaged post-war Vienna, with a crumbling building that splits apart and reassembles in different forms, reflecting a city torn apart by war and now divided into four military zones. However, the anachronistic CCTV cameras at the side of the stage (suggesting surveillance) are a mistake. Ross Brown's atmospheric music adds to the suspense.
There are strong performances from the cast of six, most of them playing multiple roles of sinister and eccentric characters. Andrew Forbes is the cynical but not unlikeable Calloway, prepared to exploit anyone in order to catch serious criminals. Antony Gabriel is especially good as the bemused Martins, out of his depth in these murky foreign waters, and more upset to hear of his hero Lime's perfidious crimes than of his death.
Siri Ingul makes the vulnerable Anna a sympathetic figure. Justin Webb is a forceful presence in his cameo as Lime but doesn’t convey the Mephistophelean charm that explains why Martins and Anna are so in thrall to him - though perhaps onlyOrson Welles] could do that.
- Neil Dowden (reviewed at Greenwich Playhouse)