North by Northwest is one of the most iconic of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. In some ways the 1959 comedy thriller prefigures James Bond, with its exotic action sequences and steamy erotic tensions, its debonair villain, deadly espionage, and the wry, self-aware tone of the acting that never quite undermines the genuine suspense of which Hitchcock was an undisputed master.
The challenge of bringing all that to the stage is hardly trivial. Director Simon Phillips‘ meets it with inventive staging and populist flair, producing a fast-paced, lively and droll crowd-pleaser that’s guaranteed to put bums on seats.
The stage version is, of course, a different creature to the movie. And for all its bustle, a farce North by Northwest is not.
Yes, it’s more comedy than thriller. And perhaps it was inevitable that the comedic impulse would swallow some of what generates suspense on screen.
However, there’s something in the commitment of the ensemble performance, in the genuine attempt to recreate sinister atmospherics, that saves this homage to Hitchcock from falling into simple ridiculousness.
Together with the noir-like disorientations of the lighting, and atmospheric music and sound, Phillips’ dynamic staging keeps the audience immersed in Hitchcock’s classic from go to whoa.
The suspense of this North by Northwest might yield to mischievous humour more than the film but it remains slick and thoroughly entertaining.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST adaption by Carolyn Burns September 19 – October 29, 2017 ROYAL ALEXANDRA THEATRE, 260 King Street West, Toronto TICKETS $45.00 – $119.00 www.mirivsh.com 416-872-1212 CAST Jonathan Watton, Gerald Kyd, Abigail McKern, Olivia Fines, Joanna Van Kampen, Angus Brown, Christopher Chilton, Tom Davey, Kieran Gough, Nick Harris, Nick Sampson and Roddy Peters DIRECTOR Simon Phillips