There’s no denying Hitchcock is a ledge (or legend) in the film industry. Rooted in the foundations of epic storytelling, Hitchcock’s work still terrifies, challenges and entertains today. Many film buffs bow down to his mastery of suspense, voyeurism and psychological thrillers, becoming the rite of passage for any film studies student (I’ve been there). Despite all this, there’s something about Hitchcock that makes me feels dead inside.
Perhaps it’s his grumpy chops, famous black and white suited profile or his treatment towards women, which are a major turn off. You won’t catch me running for the blonde hair dye anytime soon. Relying on The Birds experience, I am yet to be convinced Hitchcock belongs on the stage…mind you The 39 Steps was brilliant. I confess I’m not a film buffting so I wanted to witness why theatre should love the big guy.
This dark comedy, inspired by the Master of Suspense, highlights the callousness and deviousness of two lovers trying to get away with the perfect crime. A dinner party. A dead body. A killer twist, … and of course the obligatory cameo.
Stage Theatre Company’s Hitchcock Homage has the perfect location for the ultimate Hitchcock showdown. Expecting to climb the stairs of vertigo, the Barons Court Theatre leads you into its dark cellar. Passing the pub’s toilets, I must admit there was a shadow of a doubt towards this fringe theatre set up, but the downhill journey revealed the pleasure garden of a family plot for murder.
With its peeping Tom booths as the box office and Wesley Chan’s tech window, my daylight was murdered and I was spellbound by the darkness. Transfixed to a dead body sprawled across the stage, I laughed at the normality of it all as an audience member read his newspaper over the poor guy’s murdered soul. Murder!
Creating a frenzy of awkwardness and suspicion, Hitchcock Homage dribbled Nick Pelas’ writing and direction with true sentimental yet passionate adoration for Hitchcock. Hitchcock (David Parry) captured the creepy squint and poshly monotones of a film god. He murders life and smothers it under the cushion. With a flick of a blade, Hitchcock interrupts the chaos and casts his suspicious betrayal over the life and death of his characters. Blinded by love and nostalgia, the disjointed introduction was sabotaged by fleeting introductions and characters rushing out of a torn curtain.
Unsure of Mousse T’s “Horny ‘98”, Beth (Grace Carmen-Davis) and Claudia (Francesca Mepham) have the hots for each other, teasing and dancing away their crimes. Men have no purpose so Nick is slaughtered and his body dumped into the wicker trunk. Claudia bursts into hysterics whilst Beth laughs and composes herself in honour for female solidarity. It’s their mistress, Roberta Fox (Roxanne Douro), who bonds the girls into a demented Spice Girls and rules the Hitchcock Homage roost.
With her kinky servant Pandora (Daniela Mansi), Roberta is the dominatrix and paints the walls red. Forget the wig, she has the sex appeal and sends Bentley (Yasser Kayani) into a pants and dicky bow tie overload. She disgusts Ms Caversham (Cath Humphrys) and basically tells Ken (Shaun Dicks) and Layla (Kitty Kelly) to get a room. She hunts Claudia’s nervous laughter and her suspicious glare pierces the wicker trunk into bloody matchsticks. Like a female Sherlock Holmes, she sucks happiness from the room and investigates the crime scene.
The rushed edit caused the characters to drip and the action to drab, especially when Beth and Claudia serve the drinks. The cast suddenly became nervous as the drink orders were transformed into word fluffs. Ken acts as a lifeboat and confirms his choice of drink several times to reinforce certainty. The scene portrays the unexpected meeting of strangers, not friends, causing a loss of sync and reflecting an awkward moment in what appeared to be Come Dine With Me gone wrong.
Hitchcock Homage is a noddable stab at a dark comedy and salutes to Hitchcock. The party achieved its awkward and cringeworthy status with Beth’s “Claudia, Claudia, Claudia” ringing in the ears. The play knots its own rope a few times, scrambling for balance and losing its tightness to a potentially shocking ending…but I can’t deny it’s a fringe with a Hitchcock hinge.
Big thanks to Nick Pelas and Francesca Mepham.