The stage version of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller North by Northwest will bring in the Adelaide New Year at the Festival Centre.
The live spectacular, which follows the local staging of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps in 2016, will see Matt Day star as Roger O Thornhill, the hapless advertising executive mistaken for a spy, with Adelaide’s Amber McMahon in the Eva Marie Saint role. It will be directed by Simon Phillips, whose musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert begins its Adelaide season in August, with the Hitchcock classic adapted for stage by Carolyn Burns.
Phillips, who was director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia before running the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC), was at the MTC when the Victorian company staged The 39 Steps. After its global success, Phillips and Burns were offered to adapt North by Northwest.
“We were really thrilled to do it,” Phillips says. “It’s turned into a very different show to The 39 Steps, which is a great farce, this has a different flavour.”
Phillips says they’ve kept the comic thriller tone of the original film with a sense of chase driving the production. Like The 39 Steps, part of it will be filmed, as screens will show some of the setting and action. The film elements are shot live on stage. The Guardian’s British theatre critic Michael Billington wrote that part of the delight of North by Northwest was that Phillips and his team “don’t conceal the fact we are watching a re-creation of a film but rejoice in it”. Phillips agrees with this observation.
“I have always felt that if you’re putting a film on stage the last thing you want to do is resort to the use of film because it feels like it’s a concession of defeat, but in this case I wanted to use some elements of film in the theatrical presentation. The whole notion of it is that you see the film being made in front of your eyes. It isn’t like you’re being presented with a film, it’s like you’re being presented with actors and the tricks of film being exposed to you at the same time as the effects.”
Phillips, who is a veteran of directing Shakespeare and opera, has, of late, delivered some high profile film classics to the stage including Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
“The thing that I enjoy about them is they are about new work and I enjoy working on new work,” he says. “It is that very notion you are taking something that was made for one medium and you are seeing if it can work in another medium, in a way that combines homage and original theatricality.
“They always offer a real challenge to my sense of stagecraft, which I’ve obviously been developing over a reasonably long career. Because of the fact that in film you can do basically anything you want and in the theatre you can’t, I find the constraints and challenges very energising.”
North by Northwest
Adelaide Festival Centre
From Saturday, December 29