Tag: Nicholas Bell

REVIEW: Return Season of NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Seeking the adventure again

By Caitlin McGrane

The reimagined Hitchcock classic North by Northwest gets an excellent presentation at the Melbourne Arts Centre after its fantastically successful run in 2015.

North by Northwest 2.jpg

For those who don’t know, the story is that of Roger O. Thornhill (Matt Day), Madison Avenue advertising executive mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplan in The Plaza Hotel in New York; thus setting in motion a chain of events that takes Thornhill to the United Nations, Chicago, and Mount Rushmore. His partner in crime is Eve Kendall (Amber McMahon), an enigmatic femme fatale with whom Thornhill forms an instant connection on a train.

Writer Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips really have done a terrific job of bringing the classic film to the stage; Burns has successfully managed to tread the very fragile line between appreciating and replicating the original, especially given it is such a well-loved text. Hitchcock’s contemporality is appropriately heightened through clever direction from Phillips, so some of the uncomfortable and backwards politics of the 1950s can be seen through a modern lens.

The ensemble cast, comprised of Nicholas Bell, Ian Bliss, Lyall Brooks, Leon Cain, Sheridan Harbridge, Matt Hetherington, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Gina Riley, Lucas Stibbard and Lachlan Woods are all clearly having a ball. Harbridge, Llewellyn Jones and Riley all delivered standout performances, providing just the right number of nods and winks to the audience and some truly excellent accents. It would perhaps have been nice to see more chemistry between the two leads, and it sometimes felt to me like McMahon’s Eve was not as self-assured as her silver screen counterpart. But these minor critiques did not hamper my enjoyment of their respective performances.

It would be extraordinarily remiss of me not to mention the exceptional creative work from the backstage team. Nick Schlieper’s lighting and set design were joyously clever and funny, Ian McDonald’s composition and sound design catapulted me back in time to my first screening of North by Northwest, while Josh and Jess Burns’ innovative and hilarious use of video really stole the show. I shall never see Mount Rushmore the same way ever again.

To have a bad time watching North by Northwest would be an extremely difficult thing, and while this may seem like damning with faint praise I really would be surprised if anyone came out of seeing this production feeling anything but contented. Sometimes what I need is a big sugary treat from the theatre, and North by Northwest delivered deliciously comforting familiarity in spades. This is the second time I’ve seen the production, and it is the combination of joy, self-awareness and fun that makes this such a pleasure to watch.

North by Northwest is now showing at The State Theatre at the Arts Centre until 13 February 2016. More information and tickets from: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/north-by-northwest-2016

Advertisements

REVIEW: MTC Presents NORTH BY NORTHWEST

MTC’s masterly salute to the master of suspense

By Rachel Holkner

How will they do the scene on Mount Rushmore? This has to be the question at the front of the mind of any audience member familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film North By Northwest. In this world premiere production by the Melbourne Theatre Company the film is adapted for the stage by Carolyn Burns in ingenious and highly entertaining ways.

North by Northwest

The story follow the trials of Roger Thornhill, a New York advertising man mistaken for a spy. Following leads and leading chases across several states on trains and planes, through hotels and auction house, Thornhill gradually uncovers a larger plot with higher stakes than a simple case of mistaken identity. High-paced action scenes are interspersed with romantic interludes, all peppered with witty dialogue. One of North By Northwest‘s main attractions: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

More of a straight reenactment rather than a reimagining, director Simon Phillips‘ stage adaption sometimes holds a bit too tightly to the film. A few (very few) moments do not translate well, and might be a bit odd to anyone not familiar with Hitchcock’s work. Several characters are straight impersonations of the film’s actors, and this was to the play’s detriment. Occasionally it felt as though the actors did not have full ownership of their parts.

The cast of twelve do a spectacular job in taking on the work of a cast of thousands. With the aid of amazing costuming, wigs and headgear by costume designer Esther Marie Hayes it was easy to forget that the woman dining in the train had minutes ago been in a stand-up argument as Thornhill’s mother. Matt Day is excellent as Roger Thornhill, as was Amber McMahon as Eve Kendall, the femme fatale. Many other familiar names bring their strength to the production including Nicholas Bell, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Deidre Rubenstein and Matt Hetherington. The entire cast deserves high praise for their faultless and energetic work.

However, the show-stealing performance, that which received the most spontaneous applause, laughs and gasps from the audience was the staging. An incredibly creative use of a massive rear-projection screen used with live-action miniatures brings the language of film right onto the stage. Complete with an opening credit sequence nod to the kinetic typography of Saul Bass (titles designer of many of Hitchcock’s films), no opportunity was lost to draw the audience into the play and into the manipulative world of 1950s America.

The audience shared in the glee of the cast as they interacted at frequent intervals with items key to the setting, whether writing notes, pouring drinks or driving tiny cars, these actions were projected to provide close-ups, midshots and moving backgrounds key to keeping the production as close to Hitchcock’s vision as possible. The iconic cropduster scene is gobsmackingly good, keeping us simultaneously on the edge of our seats and in fits of laughter.

I cannot know how much someone not familiar with the film would enjoy this production, however lines which I was merely nodding to as I recognised them, were getting genuine laughs from the audience which would indicate that there is enough clarity and freshness here for all. MTC’s North By Northwest is an amazing achievement. Hilarious, tense and dramatic at all the right moments. You won’t regret seeing this one, it’s sensational.

And as for Mount Rushmore? Well I can’t tell you. You simply wouldn’t believe me.

Venue: Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
Season: Until 20 June 2015
Tickets: $51-$124
Bookings: http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

REVIEW: Red Stitch presents WET HOUSE

An emotional and essential experience

By Myron My

A wet house is a hostel for alcoholic homeless men and women, where they can drink and sleep as much as they want with no expectations for them to be rehabilitated. They are more or less, the people that society has given up on. In Red Stitch’s production of Paddy Campbell’s Wet House, we get an insight into the lives of three residents and three workers of a wet house, each one struggling with their own redemption and reason for being.

REDSTITCH

Wet House is based on Campbell’s first-hand experience of working in a wet house and you can see how effective a story can be when the writer well and truly knows what he is writing about. Not a single scene is wasted, no dialogue is filler, no movement is pointless. Everything that happens in Wet House has a purpose, and with six different stories being told, the pacing is controlled well and is never difficult to follow.

The performance opens with colleagues Helen (Caroline Lee) and Mike (David Whiteley) going through the handover of their shift. The dark humour used throughout is disturbingly funny and highlights even more the issues that the script is raising. The arrival of new recruit Andy (Paul Ashcroft), with his idealistic and simplistic views on helping these people comes into great conflict with the realities of the job as well as his relationship with Helen and Mike.

Wet house residents, Dinger, Spencer and Kerry (Nicholas Bell, Dion Mills and Anna Sampson), each have their own unique story to tell, but at the same time, their story is universal. Mills in particular is exceptional as Spencer, bringing a vulnerability and sympathy to a character we should revile against and disgusted by. The scenes between him and Whiteley are extremely intense to watch which is due to the strong performances and fearless directing by Brett Cousins.

Sophie Woodward’s set design captures the bleak environment of despair that these people face day in day out. There is a creative use of the space in the theatre that I have not seen before which draws you further into this world and story. Costumes have been used to give more life to the characters and build on their personalities.

Red Stitch’s production of Wet House opens discussion on alcoholism and how we support those who are seen as beyond help and how the intention to do good is ultimately never going to be better than action. It is an emotionally draining show but it is a show that needs to be seen.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.

Season: Until 18 April | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 3:00pm, Sun 6:30pm

Tickets: $37 Full | $20-27 Conc

REVIEW: Daniel Keene’s DREAMERS

Romance reveals racism

By Myron My

Originally commissioned for French theatre company Tabula Rasa, the English-language premiere of Dreamers presented by fortyfivedownstairs could easily be a narrative born straight out of current Australian politics and newspapers. The story follows a young Muslim refugee, Majid, who seeks work and acceptance from a community that eyes him with suspicion, disdain and aggression.

Dreamers Photo Credit - Jeff Busby

Majid (the impressive Yomal Rajasinghe) is waiting for the bus where he meets the lonely and much older Anne (Helen Morse). Through a second chance encounter their friendship deepens into a romantic relationship, much to the outrage of the town’s residents.

Daniel Keene’s story is a slow-burn but utterly absorbing tale of a world of casual bigotry and racial discrimination, where at one point, a resident ranks Majid’s “darkness” on a scale of 1 to 10. The scenes involving the various townspeople (Nicholas Bell, Jonathan Taylor, Paul English, Natasha Herbert and Marco Chiappi) whilst uncomfortable to watch and hear, are a stark reminder of the attitudes that are still held by many in Australia.

Age-discrimination, poverty and gender roles are also explored in Dreamers, but with Keene’s infusion of light-hearted or comedic moments and interludes, he never makes you feel overwhelmed by the issues but allows them to enter your thoughts and rest there.

There is some inspiring work by designer Adrienne Chisholm, lighting designer Andy Turner and sound designer Sam Bolton. All these facets blend in so smoothly with the story, and serve to deepen the impact and authenticity of the production.

The talented cast of eight are highly convincing without becoming caricatures or stereotypes. Under the masterful direction of Ariette Taylor, they create some truly affecting moments, especially as we build towards the conclusion, which allows us to leave the performance buoyed up with some hope.

Dreamers is a perfect example of strong writing, acting, and directing coming together to create a highly memorable theatrical experience for its audience. Hopefully it will not be over another decade before Keene and Taylor collaborate once more.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: Until 30 November | Tues- Sat 8:00pm, Sun 4pm

Tickets: $45 Full | $35 Conc

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events or 9662 9966