North by Northwest stands as an essential Alfred Hitchcock film, considered one of the greatest films of all time due to it’s sophisticated dialogue and visually iconic style. Carolyn Burns’ adaptation, presented by the Melbourne Theatre Group, pays an homage to the timeless film.
Matt Day’s performance of Roger Thornhill, the lead who is wrongly identified as George Kaplan and thus begins the events of the performance, draws inspiration thickly from Cary Grant’s performance as Thornhill in the film. The only downside to his suave charm and stage presence is the vaguely over the top, almost clownish rapport with Amber McMahon, who plays Eve Kendall, the femme fatale spy who Thornhill falls for.
Matt Hetherington plays the villainous Vandamm, trying to smuggle government secrets out of the country on microfilm. His performance seems to be lacking, coming across in an almost camp manner, with no real show of the arch-villain that actor James Mason brought to the character in the film.
The real entertainment of the performance lies with the astounding ways that the iconic shots from the movie are replayed upon the stage. Rather than display pre-recorded back drops, all the projections across the stage are done in sight of the audience, just in the wings. We see actors pushing around props, toy cars and even projecting their faces onto the stage for the famous Mount Rushmore scene. It brings a comedic and enchanting element to the performance, something that may have been lacking had pre-recorded footage been used.
Most notably, the efficiency of the cast when moving props and setting the scenes (again, the Mount Rushmore scene) is superb to witness, the rush and hurry of the actors almost setting the atmosphere for the next scene, something that wouldn’t have been achieved via stage hands moving props.
Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips manage to capture the essence of the original Hitchcock film, delivering a performance that entertains and makes you want to go home and watch the 1959 spy thriller again.