Switzerland: The Author strikes again

Joanna Murray-Smith’s Switzerland, now playing at the Ensemble Theatre, is a masterclass in suspense and psychological drama, expertly directed by Shaun Rennie. The play transports its audience directly into the intimate setting of a lounge room where the stakes are as high as the tension that suffuses every moment. This production demonstrates Ensemble’s ability to punch above its weight in the Sydney theatre scene.

The production values of Switzerland are exceptional, with Veronique Benett’s contribution as a particular standout. Her talent shines through in the set and lighting design, which complements the narrative and enhances the suspense and drama inherent in the script. The set is a meticulous recreation of Highsmith’s lounge room, replete with period details and a sense of isolation that mirrors the protagonist’s psychological state. The subtle yet effective lighting shifts with the mood of the play, underscoring the thriller aspects that Murray-Smith so deftly weaves through the dialogue.

Director Shaun Rennie deserves high praise for his ability to maintain a tight, cohesive production while allowing enough space for the actors to explore their complex characters. His direction ensures that the audience is not merely observing the action but is pulled into the unfolding drama, hanging on every word and movement with bated breath.

The play delves into the life of famed thriller writer Patricia Highsmith, played with formidable skill by Toni Scanlan. Highsmith, known for creating the enigmatic and often dark character Tom Ripley, is depicted in her secluded life in the Swiss Alps, her peace disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious visitor. Scanlan’s portrayal is nothing short of a triumph, capturing both the acerbic wit and the underlying vulnerability of Highsmith with a captivating precision.

Laurence Boxhall steps into the shoes of Edward, the seemingly naive and unassuming young man who intrudes into Highsmith’s reclusive existence with an agenda of his own. Boxhall’s performance is chillingly effective; he embodies Edward with a creeping intensity that evolves from timid to terrifying over the course of the play. His transformation is both nuanced and startling, providing a perfect foil to Scanlan’s Highsmith.

Switzerland is a riveting production that should not be flying under the radar. It is a testament to the theatre’s commitment to quality and innovation in its offerings. The combination of Murray-Smith’s sharp, engaging script and the stellar performances by the cast makes this a must-see. For those who appreciate theatre that challenges as much as it entertains, it offers a perfect blend of intellectual stimulation and emotional engagement.

– The other Daniel Craig


Daniel Craig is an international performer and has established himself as a trusted theatre specialist on the Sydney Arts Scene. While he understands the technical side of theatre, Dan writes for the everyday theatregoer (unlike some of those more prominent publications). When not in the audience, he loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig

Switzerland runs for 90 mins (no interval) and plays at Ensemble Theatre through 08 June 2024. Tickets are available through the Ensemble Theatre Box Office.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Kabuku Public Relations.
Image credit: Brett Boardman.