Review of 'Switzerland'


Patricia Highsmith (played coolly by Phyllis Logan), the queen of the thriller and best known for her novel “The Talented Mr Ripley”, has retreated to Switzerland to write her next novel when she is visited by a young man (Calum Finlay) who has been sent by her New York publisher to convince her to write a new Tom Ripley novel. Highsmith is now a bitter old woman and she verbally assaults the young man who perseveres in his efforts. Her threats suggest physical violence which is heightened by her weapon collection displayed on the walls of her study. This menace is made even more palpible when we learn a previous visitor from the publisher accused Highsmith of putting a knife to his throat. Despite this the young man manages to convince Highsmith to allow him to stay the night, risking his own neck…

An interesting study of old-age cynicism and the burden of fame. It is with the young man we are most attracted to and sympathise with as he is continually attacked by Highsmith.

Logan plays Highsmith with appropriately cold aplomb often sending shivers down your spine as she launches tirade after tirade aimed at her young visitor and society in general as she puffs away on cigarettes, caring little for anyone but herself. Indeed, even her adopted home Switzerland is subject to much vitriol along with the gift of AMERICAN (not English) peanut butter brought by the young man. Finlay, on the other hand, is cool and calculating in his performance, attempting to get under the skin to understand the force that is Highsmith. He also manages a bit of mystery as we never really seem to get a clear picture of the man beyond his manipulations of Highsmith. The two actors are compelling as it must be both emotionally and physically exhausting to play these powerful characters (during the curtain call it was clear on both of their faces the strain it must have on them night after night - despite my seeing the show only a few days into its run).

The set is Highsmith's study in Switzerland which is simply and decorated in rather an old, uninspiring, fashion (yes, I am aware the play is set in 1995) that is more utilitarian than interesting though this could have been intentional. It's three large windows looking out onto static pictures of the Swiss Alps are in no way convincing or even realistic. These trivial things are the only things I can really complain about in an otherwise compelling production.

In a play such as this there is always going to be an intriguing ending which “Switzerland” does not fail to deliver keeping you guessing as to what will happen right up to the final minutes. Emotionally draining “Switzerland” keeps you interested throughout (our audience remained rapt throughout) it's rather lengthy one and a half hour running time (with no interval).

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2018-11-14

Ambassadors Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: West Street, London WC2H 9ND ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Leicester Square

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7395 5405


The Ambassadors is a small theatre across from The Ivy and just next door to “St. Martin's Theatre” (home to “The Mousetrap”) on West Street, a small distance from Leicester Square. The foyer is tiny with stairs leading down to the stalls or up to the circle. There are bars on each level and acoustics are acceptable.