Patricia Highsmith (portrayed by Phyllis Logan), the American author of some of the most beloved murder novels such as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley , is visited by Edward Ridgeway (Calum Finlay) in her retreat bunker in Switzerland. Ridgeway, a young publisher, has been sent there to convince Highsmith to write one final Ripley novel.
The production is thrilling and captivates the audience from the get-go. As the exchange between the characters heats up and cools down, as the dynamics change, the tension is truly palpable. This is, for the most part, thanks to the wonderful acting by Logan and Finlay, who portray two very unlikeable characters. Highsmith especially is made to be as unlikeable as possible in this production, spewing hate with each sentence that comes out.
The stage design is particularly unwelcoming and fits the theme and the characterisation perfectly. There is a sense of unease even prior to the actors taking centre stage. The Swiss Alps visual in the background is slightly tacky, though. Maybe a little too on-the-nose for my liking, driving the point that we are, in fact, in Switzerland. It’s not like they never mention it throughout the play.
The play is far from perfect, with little character development up until the climax. Even then, there isn’t much giving these characters a third dimension. All we know is Highsmith is a nasty woman, and Ridgeway is a young, charming publisher. Yes, for those familiar with Highsmith’s work, Ridgeway does in fact present a striking similarity to Tom Ripley, although this is a tad too subtle for those who are not. The twist near the end may be a bit confusing for the latter group, although when it happens, it’s not exactly a shocker; though a chilling conclusion to a thrilling plot, it isn’t particularly surprising.
In conclusion, Switzerland is, on paper, a wonderful idea, exploring the author’s relationship with her most beloved character. In practice, though, it is let down by the script which does not allow for character development and relies on the audience being familiar with Highsmith’s work. The actors deliver a high-quality performance with the script they have been handed. While the play does make for an entertaining evening out, and might leave you wanting to sift through Highsmith’s catalogue, it doesn’t do much more.