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North By Northwest

Adapted by Carolyn Burns

Directed by Simon Phillips

Photos Daniel Boud

The Star Lyric Theatre until April 3

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

How do you adapt one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 movies to the stage, when trains, buses and aeroplanes are integral parts of the production?

North By Northwest starred Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau and James Mason.

By the way, in no movie did Cary Grant say, “Judy, Judy, Judy”, just as Humphrey Bogart didn’t say, “Play it again Sam”, as Michael Douglas didn’t say, “Greed is good” and Tony Curtis didn’t say, “Yornder lies da castle of my fadda”.

New York City advertising executive, Roger Thornhill, is the victim of mistaken identity…or is he? He crosses paths with crime boss Phillip Van Damm and his henchmen, and an attractive blonde woman, Eve Kendall. A government agency, headed by “the Professor”, is deeply involved, and we see some double, double-crossing. Van Damm isn’t averse to physical intimidation, and the world closes in on Thornhill.

The violence intensifies and an aeroplane smashes into a truck tanker and bursts into flames. The transport vehicles, the vast cornfields and Mount Rushmore are created through the use of back projections on the cyclorama.

Elements of Hitchcock movies often contain tongue-in-cheek dialogue delivery, and it’s necessarily amped up for this stage version.

David Campbell is compelling as Roger Thornhill and it’s obvious that he has studied the film because his New York accent sometimes reverts to Cary Grant.

Amber McMahon is the alluring Eve Kendall. It’s essential that there is chemistry between Roger and Eve.

Also in the cast are such experienced actors as Genevieve Lemon, Sharon Millerchip, Nicholas Bell and Tony Llewellyn-Jones who play several parts.

A pleasing aspect of this production is the diversity. The cast in the film is exclusively “white bread”. In this stage version, Bert Labonté is Van Damme and Kaeng Chan plays CIA Agent Harlowe, FBI Agent Anderson and other roles.

There are a couple of amusing, “Central Casting” accents and others vary. I looked for a credit for dialect coach in the programme and didn’t find one.

It’s fantastic that theatre at major venues is back in Sydney, and North By Northwest at the Lyric Theatre provides a pleasant evening out.


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