Brighton: how on earth do you bring The Da Vinci Code to the stage?

Da Vinci CodeDa Vinci Code
Da Vinci Code
If you think of the book, it is absolutely epic in scale, with its breadth of reference and range of locations.

How on earth do you bring The Da Vinci Code to the stage?

Nigel Harman, who plays Robert Langdon in the first-ever stage adaptation, admits he was wondering precisely that until he got the script.

“I read the script and the script is so great and so tight. It has managed to fillet the great moments of the book and the film and make them work on stage, and they’ve come up with an extraordinary stage where there is like an invisible gauze where they can project during the show what’s happening inside Robert’s mind and also show the locations and the artworks from the Louvre. It just really works.”

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The play is at the Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday, March 15-Saturday, March 19; Mayflower, Southampton from April 26-30; and Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from September 26-October 1.

“It’s a show that just flies. You go on the stage and the next moment you are taking your bows. It is incredible the way it just flashes by.”

The show started in the second week in January: “And what is really interesting is that the audience is getting more confident about coming out. When we started in Bromley it was a sea of masks and those are getting released now and that means that people are getting more and more involved in the show.

“Theatre has always been around. It has been around for thousands of years and it was always going to continue. Storytelling is so much part of what we do so theatre was always going to survive but I do think we’ve lost a lot of people, certainly on the technical side. People could not afford to stay unemployed and a lot of people moved on to new areas so maybe there will have to be some recruiting that gets done but I don’t think theatre is going to be hugely damaged (by the pandemic).”

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As for Nigel: “I just did what everybody else did. I did the home-schooling and I walked the dog and you just get through.”

But it is great to be back on the stage, he says.

So what does he do about Tom Hanks, who originated the role in the film?

“The most important thing for me was that I didn’t have to have the mullet! I asked and they said no and so I said ‘I am in!’ Tom is a great actor but I’ve done parts that have been played in the past by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino so it’s not really an issue. But this is the first time it’s been done on stage and there are moments from the film that I can remember him doing and I suppose I pay homage in a way but really it’s me doing it.

“And I think the character is really interesting. He’s incredibly smart and very clever and he is a leader in his field but he is claustrophobic and not that great with people. There is this whole element of him being part hero and really not terribly useful in certain things, like handling a gun. But there is also a sense of humour about him that has come out in the play that I don’t think has been explored before.”

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Nigel is delighted to have Sussex connections where he is patron of Ariel Drama Academies.

“Originally Neil and Nicci Hopson (who set up Ariel) knew my father through amateur dramatics and I must have met them through that. When they were starting up the school they asked me to be patron. I’ve done a lot of theatre around that way and I was just really proud to be part of what they’re doing. They are a fantastic school. They are so inclusive and so caring.

“Their great ethos is to bring people together and make them confident rather than to go out and find the next big thing on the stage. They have had youngsters that have done really well but that’s not the raison d’etre. It is really about them getting people together and finding themselves and that’s what makes them so brilliant.”

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