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Hitchcock Homage
Barons Court Theatre
2nd June 2016


The ensemble of Hitchcock Homage

Photography provided by Stage Theatre Company

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, writer and director Nick Pelas clearly looks up to Hitchcock and his more experimental work with a great deal of respect. Hitchcock Homage borrows heavily from Rope, a 1948 film in which a gay couple strangle a man they believe to be their intellectual inferior, then throw a dinner party in the same room as the corpse. Here, the two lovers are transformed into women, with Grace Carmen Davis and Francesca Mepham playing strange and slightly creepy hosts Beth and Claudia.

Whilst it's clear that Pelas has tried to copy from Hitchcock throughout and in that regard, he achieves what he sets out to do, he seems to have focused his efforts on mimicking Hitchcock's weaknesses rather than strengths. Although Rope wasn't actually filmed in one take, it was supposed to feel as if it had been and here, Pelas uses lots of awkward pauses and gaps and some very clunky scene changes, giving the effect of no editing. Essentially, he gives the impression of deliberately trying not to direct Hitchcock Homage. However, real life isn't half as interesting as the movies, or indeed the theatre, and this awkwardness saps the energy from the production, especially at the start.

The relationship between Beth and Claudia is initially difficult to fathom, because despite all of the physical touching, Davis and Mepham demonstrate very little chemistry. Whilst Yasser Kayani shows some aptitude for a comic actor as dinner party guest Bentley, his character doesn't seem to fit with the piece. Roxanne Douro's snarling and elegant Roberta Fox is as one-dimensional as all the other players, however she does come close to making a good would-be villain and we see some potential there. Catharine Humphrys helps make up the numbers as Mrs Caversham, which is a thankless bit role to play. The actress seems competent, but she's too underused for us to really tell.

Peter Scott-Noble's costumes don't help the stilted and clumsy language in establishing the intended period of this piece. Layla (Kitty Kelly), Betley and Mrs Caversham in particular could step back into the late 1940s without too much difficulty, whereas Beth and maid Pandora (Daniela Mansi) are dressed in somewhat more contemporary clothing. It's only when Ken (Shaun Dicks) calls out to text him that we're clear this must be set in the modern day.

As a tribute to the great man himself, David Parry makes a cameo as Hitchcock, commenting at the start of the piece and later wandering in and out of the action. This is a thoughtful touch by Pelas, but we would have preferred his interaction (and references) to be more subtle, perhaps by cutting the initial appearance in which he takes centre stage.

The overall standard of acting is disappointing, with Davis in particular making some obvious fumbles with her lines. To what extent Pelas takes responsibility for this is unclear, but with most of the cast relatively inexperienced, you can't help but feel he should have guided them more strongly. There some good ideas in this script, hampered by poor execution.

It's worth remembering that as little as Hitchcock cared for Rope himself, his later work was something he could be justifiably proud of. Hopefully there are better things in store for this Stage Theatre Company too. Hitchcock Homage is an undeniable tribute to Hitchcock, just not one to his finest hour.

Hitchcock Homage opened on 31st May and runs until 12th June 2016 at Barons Court Theatre.

Nearest tube station: West Kensington (District)

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