Writer: Frederick Knott
Director: Lucy Bailey
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
Those theatre-goers lured by the draw of the nameAlfred Hitchcock attached to this productionwill not be disappointed by this, the stage original. Indeed, Hitchcock filmed his first colour movie almost word for word from Alfred Knott’s adaptation of his own play and despite claims by director Lucy Bailey that rather thanseeking to recreate the film, she wants to”play with perspective and disturb what the audience is seeing”, perfectly recreate the familiar film is what she has done.
Married, at his own convenience, to the wealthy Sheila, cold-blooded, iron-willed and emotionally detached ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice plots to kill his young wife and inherit her money on finding evidence of her affair with boyish thriller writer Max Halliday.
Like the colour-saturated movie, the atmospheric tone is set from the start: the set, blood red, revolving, is simplistic but sophisticated and the era-evocative soundtrack is both jazzily breezy and at times, nerve-shredding.
Bailey’s fluid direction drives the narrative along effectively and a brace of fine performances keep the piece taught throughout. Daniel Betts delivers an absolutely perfectly pitched portrait of sociopathic Tony, spine-chillingly detached as he outlines his plans for murdering his own wife, eyes dead behind his smile as he befriends his wife’s young lover. He is ably supported by Kelly Hotten as wife Sheila and Christopher Timothy as the dogged, working class Inspector Hubbard, the perfect foil to upper class Tony. Less effective is Philip Cairns as love-interest Max, who appears to have been cast for his matinée idol good looks rather than his acting talent.
As apsychological portrait of an emotionally detached criminal it is amasterpiece ofcharacterisation, as an out and out thriller, the intricate spider’s web of a plot has enough depth and intrigue to keep the audience gripped throughout and that the many and complex threads hold together coherently in the mind of the audience, is testament to the quality of Knott’s writing.
The production promises much and does not disappoint: it is a class act from start to finish, be prepared to be thrilled and chilled in equal measure.
Runs until Sat 28 June 2014 then touring