THE LOVESONG OF ALFRED J HITCHCOCK
Derby Theatre, Friday 8th November, 2013
A director’s chair in a spotlight. A director under scrutiny. David Rudkin’s beautifully written play is not exactly a biography of Alfred Hitchcock but a series of glimpses into his history and into his mind. As the story unfolds we begin to see the bigger picture and there are Freudian clues to why he was the way he was, and why he made it his life’s work to shock and scare cinema audiences. Through monologues and two-handers, Rudkin interlaces ideas and we make the links. This is no lecture or straightforward biopic. Like a Hitchcock piece, there is a slow build to its surprises, a twist or two on the road to psychological revelation.
Martin Miller is a very strong lead as Hitchcock, speaking in terms of a shooting script he is forever forming in his mind. With just a few words, he paints pictures in our imagination – the economy of narrative theatre. Behind him, silhouettes appear on a gauze – his mother is first revealed as a shadowy figure saying Boo to her little boy to make him jump.
As Hitchcock’s mother and then as his wife, Roberta Kerr is utterly compelling. Unlike Miller, she is released from the added pressure of having us scrutinise her portrayals for recognisable traits. Solid support comes from Anthony Wise as a priest, a teacher and, especially, a sleazy stranger on a train – sorry, strangler on a train; and Tom McHugh impresses as a young screenwriter, trying to keep abreast of Hitchcock’s creative whims.
Asuza Ono’s lighting shapes the scenes on this Spartan stage, with touches of Caravaggio highlights and, of course, cinematic glows. Jack McNamara’s direction keeps the distinction between the inside and outside of Hitchcock’s mind clear. We are included in the action but not privy to all the secrets all at once. McNamara gives us suspense, intensity and humour – the hallmarks of a Hitchcock film. There are plenty of nods and references to Hitchcock’s oeuvre for the fan to spot and recognise.
This small-scale touring production from New Perspectives and Leicester’s splendid Curve deserves wide-scale acclaim and a much larger audience.