Brilliantly funny tongue-in-cheek take on a classic
IT'S a toss up as to who would be more offended by this unashamed spoof, John Buchan, author of the original 1915 novel, or Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1935 black-and-white film classic is the basis for playwright Patrick Barlow's tongue-in-cheek adaptation.
Safe to say neither could ever have envisaged their precious work reduced to a series of non-stop gags both visual and verbal and delivered at a breathless pace by four actors and a collection of ingenious and often hilarious tricks.
It is six years since this production was launched in London and, although it is hard to imagine a more British presentation it amazingly scooped a couple of Tony awards in the United States.
Richard Hannay, suave, stiff upper lipped and at a loose end, opts for a night at the theatre and ends up wanted for murder when the body of an Austrian girl is found in his flat. He can only clear his name by foiling a devilish German spy plot and sets off on the run to Scotland in search of the dastardly Professor.
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Richard Ede, delightfully self mocking as Hannay, has Charlotte Peters to act the various attractive women to whom he becomes attached along the way. The eye-catchers are Tony Bell and Gary Mackay who play all the other crazy characters the high-speed hero meets on his adventures. Detectives, spies, over-the-top Scots, and especially a theatrical act Mr Memory are among those conjured up in amusing double-quick time.
But the visual trickery steals the show as chairs become trains, a ladder serves as the Forth Bridge and, with expert timing, lampposts, doors and windows appears on cue.
Maria Aitken's taut direction includes continual references to Hitchcock's screen triumphs and it would be nice to think both he and Buchan would see the funny side of this parody – but I doubt it.