Ian Waller enjoys a hugely entertaining adaptation of a Hitchcock classic

Take a classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller, complete with panoramic action scenes, famous natural landmarks and a plot that transports the audience across America, and transfer it to the confines of the Theatre Royal stage – simple, right?
Well, as it turns out, yes, if you happen to be part of the hugely creative team behind the clever adaptation of North by Northwest which is running at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday 12 August. And while you’re at it, add in a generous helping of humour and a host of great performances.

North by Northwest is one of that wonderful cinematic portfolio of films by the master of suspense known by some as Hitch, which typically involves stylish heros, beautiful heroines, frankly unlikely plots but most of all a sense of Hollywood style that somehow died out with the likes of Cary Grant and James Stewart. North by Northwest was always my favourite, pitting the super suave Cary Grant against the evil Cold War baddies against a backdrop of a romantic railway journey and the symbolic Mount Rushmore, as well as the deadly intentions of an attacking cropduster aircraft.

The success of this production is partly due to the keener focus on the humour of the original film, together with a really clever use of props and space. That and a wonderful live action, green-screen style backdrop that allows the action to take on car chases through city streets, that aircraft attack on our hero and even an all action finale on the edge of a certain mountain. Indeed, its clever super realistic interpretation of the President’s faces on Mount Rushmore is a hilarious highlight that will guarantee to have you laughing out loud.

This production also sees a hugely talented troupe of actors taking on any number of parts – there’s even a cameo by Mr Hitchcock himself – while the central leads, Jonathan Watton in the Cary Grant role as Roger O Thornhill and Olivia Fines as leading lady and seductress supreme, Eve, shine. As the action sees Thornhill wrongly accused of murder and being chased across America by both baddies and police, so the many elements come together with a wonderful humour and creativity, assisted by a clever choreography of changing stage sets.

The result is a theatrical success, easily the most entertaining and creative productions that I’ve seen in ages. No, it’s not deep, serious or thought provoking, but that’s not the point. Instead, North By Northwest is a great evening’s entertainment that I think even Hitch himself would have approved of.

www.theatreroyal.org.uk