Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller North by Northwest is considered one of the greatest films of all time, so I was curious to see how Carolyn Burns stage adaptation would fare. Burns adaptation is every bit as thrilling as the film and Simon Phillips’ impeccable direction and dramaturgy makes for a seamless production.
The staging was one my favorite aspects of this production, it’s so incredibly clever and well done. Using small models and props controlled by actors, the special effects are filmed with a live feed that is projected on a screen at the back of the playing space. Using this technique, the company is able to recreate all the vistas seen in the film including the crop duster plane, the drunken car ride down a mountainous pass, a hilarious Mount Rushmore (which I won’t give away here), an auction and so much more. It was interesting to watch the action on stage and at the same time, check in at the sides of the playing space to see how the actors were creating the images we were seeing on the screen.
Jonathan Watton takes on the iconic role of Roger O. Thornhill, originally played by Cary Grant in the film. Those are pretty big shoes to fill but he is as dreamy and charismatic as Grant. At times his accent didn’t quite land naturalistically but overall his performance was strong. Olivia Fines played the perfect femme fatale Eve. She suits the era perfectly. She is all curves, seduction, and feminine wiles and the chemistry between her and Watton is electric.
The supporting cast playing multiple characters are uniformly strong. Phillips keeps everyone busy with loads of fast-paced stage business, all expertly executed. Even the opening credits with a nod to typography was a complicated dance. And of course, Hitch himself makes an appearance.
Nick Schlieper should be commended for his stellar set and lighting design, Ian McDonald’s dramatic composition perfectly complements the action on stage and Esther Marie Hayes’ costumes are divine. This play will definitely be a hit for Hitchcock fans but even if you have never seen the film, North by Northwest is sure to please.
North by Northwest is onstage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre through October 29, 2017. For more info please visit: Mirvish.com