Monday, February 26, 2007

'Vertigo' by Red Shift

26 February 2007

Last weekend we were at the Royal Theatre, Northampton, to see a new stage production of the psychological thriller 'Vertigo' by the Red Shift Theatre Company. This was adapted and directed by Jonathan Holloway from the story by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac that inspired the famous Hitchcock film. Set in a French sanatorium in 1947, the play tells the story in flashback - a framing device that creates a logic to actors playing multiple characters as the Doctor helps his patient, Roger Flaviere, to remember the events that led to his current state of mind by acting them out. I wonder, however, whether this framing of the story removed some of the tension by making it clear where Roger was headed. Nevertheless the play nicely captured the feeling of increasing bewilderment, paranoia and panic common to so many Hitchcock leading men. It reminded me of the Kazuo Ishiguro novel 'When We Were Orphans' where we are similarly asked to sympathise with a protagonist who becomes gradually more and more desperate and hysterical to the point where we begin to wonder how reliable his narration is. 'Vertigo' was well acted and directed and enjoyably dark though it requires you to go along with the dated gender politics and the familiar obsession with the 'Hitchcock blonde'. And if you are not familiar with the film don't let anyone spoil it by telling you the twist!

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