As somebody who, for better or worse, spent more than three months studying Alfred Hitchcock – probably, I mention for introductory flair, history’s most famous director – I approached this production with the faint self-image of an aficionado, albeit one who hasn’t watched a Hitchcock film in over a year.
Frustratingly inconsistent and often bore the bones of its rehearsal. Its occasional charm may scrape the tagline of ‘worth seeing’, but only – I’m afraid – with a most cautionary appendage.
I looked forward to the satisfying experience of understanding its esoteric references, to the focus on feet in the opening scene of Strangers on a Train, for example, or Hitchcock’s extended cameo in Blackmail. More than that, however, I looked forward to seeing how the Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club were to evoke the so-called Master of Suspense in the first place.
Sadly, the show did not get off to the best start. It was more than half an hour late, and – when it did finally begin – was introduced by an irritating, seemingly uneasy ringmaster/host whose paltry attempts at audience interaction appeared little more than a way to bide time before the first performance. He tried to play the part of the mentally disturbed Hitchcock villain, but his exaggerated persona and faux-maniacal laughter were too painfully contrived to enjoy.
What followed was a series of vignettes that each evoked a different Hitchcock film through a varied combination of singers, dancers and acrobats. They shifted between dark, moody explorations of Hitchcock’s work and lighthearted pieces that were more characteristic of the cabaret genre. A live electronic musician backed the entire production, using the musical motifs of Hitchcock’s filmography as the base of a unique, beat-heavy soundtrack that added a modern thrill to the spectacle.
Unfortunately, the talent on show all too often fell into mediocrity. The hula hoopist bungled her grand finale three times, and the tightrope walker fell down when trying to lift up a scarf with his teeth. The audience were very forgiving, but they seemed to be clapping more out of encouragement than admiration, and there were more than a few quizzical faces questioning the professionalism of the troupe.
In balance, there were some interesting set pieces, particularly the tribute to Psycho at the end of the show (don’t worry, I won’t give away the surprise). And the hula hoopist, to be fair, was impressive before the end of her performance, and managed to engage the audience in conversation even while swinging her hips. There was also a brilliant segment with three ‘Hitchcock blondes’ dressed in drag, which certainly drew the most raucous laughter from the crowds.
Moments such as these made Hitch memorable but were far too infrequent to justify a recommendation; the production was frustratingly inconsistent and often bore the bones of its rehearsal. Its occasional charm may scrape the tagline of ‘worth seeing’, but only – I’m afraid – with a most cautionary appendage.