Entertainment Hive 2020

North By Northwest

Adelaide Festival Theatre, until January 20

Review by Honey B

The classic 1959 spy thriller North By Northwest is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest screen triumphs and Simon Phillips’ screen adaptation of the much-loved film is also a theatrical triumph. Phillips is certainly a brave director to take on the mammoth task of bringing such an iconic piece to life with its breathtaking scenes from a thrilling train journey to a swooping crop-dusting plane and the famous Mount Rushmore cliff-hanger scene –  the former US presidents have never looked better! While the props, audio-visual and set pieces were absolutely amazing – including the inventive opening sequence which mimicked the whole feel of the original movie perfectly – the cast were seriously impressive. Matt Day as the sharply dressed, sardonic Roger O. Thornhill anchored the entire play, while Adelaide’s own Amber McMahon was simply breathtaking as the mysterious, Eve Kendall. Day stepped deftly into Cary Grant’s shoes as the successful Madison Avenue advertising executive Thornhill who is on his way to the theatre in New York when he is abducted by thugs who insist he is a man named George Kaplan. A dramatic and, at times, comedic cat and mouse chase from New York to Chicago and South Dakota ensues, as Thornhill desperately attempts to clear his name. A nasty type, Van Damm (played by Jonny Pasvolsky), and his henchmen are hot on the advertising execs heels. Along the way Thornhill becomes entangled with a beautiful blonde, Eve Kendall. McMahon as Kendall was sultry, smart and utterly alluring. McMahon embodied the true femme fatale and the lower tones in her voice were to die for. The ensemble cast worked brilliantly with the technical side of the play, which was ingenious to say he least. You would have to go far to find a harder working cast than this. Abigail McKern was fun as Mrs Thornhill and added some light relief to proceedings while Tom Davey played a great villain. Carolyn Burns has crafted a heart-pounding stage adaptation that packed in surprise after surprise – yet remained truly faithful to its source material. The box-like or prison cell design of the set was well-thought out and the use of models and blue screens was highly creative and much kudos must go to director/set designer Phillips and set designer Nick Schlieper. However, I dare not say too much and spoil the unique stage craft. Esther Marie Hayes also receives a much-deserved shout out for her incredible costumes, while Ian McDonald’s score was also thrilling and drove the piece on. As bad guy Vandamm said in the show: “With such expert play-acting, you turn this very room into a theatre.’’ Bravo, the superb cast of North By Northwest most certainly did just that.
Photographer: Darren Thomas
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