Alys, Always – Bridge Theatre

“You’re not famous. I looked you up – you don’t exist.”

Based on the 2012 novel by Harriet Lane, Alys, Always is the story of a young woman’s journey from “dogsbody” to somebody.

Joanne Froggatt is Frances, an office junior on the books section of a Sunday newspaper, whose life changes when she comes across a road accident involving the wife – the titular Alys – of famous writer Laurence Kyte (Robert Glenister).

Invited to meet the Kyte family, Frances finds herself drawn into in a world of money and status – one which she’s unwilling to leave.

Lucinda Coxon’s stage adaptation expertly weaves plenty of laughs into the play’s tense fabric. Under Nicholas Hytner’s direction, there’s never a dull scene. The car crash at the start is cleverly realised through narration, back projection and superb sound design.

Froggatt is perfectly cast as the sweet-faced but scheming journalist. She conveys volumes with just the tiniest expressions. It’s fascinating to watch how her friendship with Alys’s grown-up daughter Polly (Leah Gayer) turns into something more psychologically complex. (It’s Polly who says to Frances the line quoted at the start of this review.)

High-brow theatre it’s not (despite the live cellist), but anyone who enjoys their thrillers read by the pool or watched on prime-time TV should consider giving this a go.

Alys, Always is at the Bridge Theatre until 30 March