Australians, we are a bloody talented bunch and North by Northwest currently playing at the Sydney Lyric Theatre is a prime example of that talent.
If you have been following my reviews, you know that I’m quite outspoken about the cookie-cutter shows that come over from the world’s major stages and don’t really give a chance for our Aussie creativity to shine through. North by Northwest, based on the 1959 movie by Alfred Hitchcock, is a brilliant stage adaptation created by Australian creatives and expertly delivered to the stage by an Australian cast.
For those of you, like myself, who aren’t huge consumers of Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest follows the story of Roger O Thornhill, an advertising executive who ends up stuck with a case of mistaken identity. While he tries to convince the Police and the criminals that he isn’t the spy they’re looking for, his life is put in danger through a cross country manhunt. Of course, like all mid-twentieth-century stories, our leading man gets distracted by a beautiful blonde bombshell who provides more plot twists to an already twisty story.
Speaking to another patron before the show, we lamented that there didn’t seem to be any new ideas in the arts. Movies become stage shows, stage shows become movies and then they produce the 127th Marvel series. With this in mind, I was quite wary of another stage adaptation… Fortunately, my fears were misplaced.
The staging was perfect for capturing the endearing kitschiness of the 1950s movie-style while bringing its own humour and persona to the story. It did take a moment for the audience to catch onto the scenery and how it was being created, but once everyone was in on the joke, it was quite entertaining (keep an eye out for Mount Rushmore). The scene change technique of ‘spotlight on Central character’ got a little bit tiresome at times, but the set changes were quite quick and allowed for the story to flow smoothly.
The cast had big shoes to fill with the original movie starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, but in true Aussie style, the cast took the characters and made them their own.
David Campbell shone in the principal role of Roger O Thornhill. He masterfully navigated his way through the New York accent and harnessed the classic cadence through his voice. Amber McMahon commanded the stage playing the flirty but assertive Eve Kendall and Bert Labonté playing Phillip Van Damm, rounded out the three leads, portraying the antagonist with villainous accuracy. The ensemble portrayed multiple roles, including character, prop and scenery. While each deserves commendations of their own, it was Genevieve Lemon who stole the show with her interpretation of Roger’s mum and the Russian housemaid.
While suspense usually isn’t my thing, theatre and movie buffs alike will regret missing out on this piece of Australian theatre Gold. Get your tickets before it leaves town.
– The other Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig is a regular on the Sydney Arts scene after living, working, and performing in London. He has a long history with theatre, and when not dabbling in the arts (which rarely ever happens), he works in scientific research and loves to travel the world trying new gin. Follow him on all the socials @talldancraig
North by Northwest runs for 2 hours 10 minutes (including interval) and is playing at the Sydney Lyric Theatre until 1 April 2022. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Lucky Star Media.
Image credit: Daniel Boud.