Review – Vertigo (Red Shift), Pleasance Theatre

Thursday 8 March 2007

Vertigo Red ShiftWhile the Whingers are at their most comfortable in the West End, they do undertake the occasional trip to the theatrical fringe – not only in the interests of “keeping it real” as the young people today possibly say, but because the drinks are a lot cheaper.

So Andrew set off with Agency Phil in tow (the real Phil having something important to watch on the telly) to the Caledonian Road for a trip to the Pleasance Theatre to see the Red Shift production of Vertigo, a play based on the book on which the classic Alfred Hitchcock film was based, if you follow us.

It was a useful pairing because whereas Andrew was a budding Hitchcock scholar in a former life, Agency Phil claims to know nothing about anything.

And here were the roots of the problem, really. While Phil sat there wondering what the hell was going on, Andrew sat there wondering when a wonderfully fresh idea would distract him from dwelling on the fact that these people weren’t Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes.

The framing device for the narrative is quite clever, but it’s another case of four actors playing all the characters between them. Phil was unable to tell when the actors switched roles, which didn’t help matters. And there was an awful lot of people telling the story to each other rather than showing it to the audience.

The anonymous man who played the central role of Roger Flavieres seemed to be stuck in a single delivery mode of “angry snarl” which became very tiresome very quickly like having Fozzie Bear sitting behind you on a very long bus journey.

There was the odd bit of “surprise” staging, but frankly the use of wet towels never really provided a substitute for seeing Kim Novak tumbling to her death.

The mental hospital set was very impressive for a fringe production, but tended to be a bit distracting when the action in it was supposed to be taking place in the Waldorf Astoria bar in Marseille.

What most interested Andrew was the French setting. The original novel – Sueurs froides: d’entre les morts (Cold Sweat: From Among the Dead) by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac – is set in France during the wartime and there are some interesting elements to the story which were necessarily absent from Hitchcock’s version.

So, if you love the film, you probably won’t care for this much. If you’ve never seen the film you may be no wiser as to the story for seeing this if Agency Phil’s experience is anything to go by.

If you don’t fit into either category and like cheaper wine than the west end can offer, pop along.


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