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Review - North by Northwest: a couple of hours of unadulterated fun

Matt Day played Roger O. Thornhill and Amber McMahon was femme fatale Eve Kendall. Photo by Darren Thomas.

North by Northwest

Adapted by Carolyn Burns

Directed by Simon Phillips

Presented by QPAC and Kay and McLean productions

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season: Until December 9. Running Time: Two hours and six minutes including interval. Bookings: or 136 346.

What’s that up there? Is it a film? Is it a play? No, its supershow! It’s a couple of hours of unadulterated fun that I am sure Alfred Hitchcock would have loved. It is of course based on his 1959 suspense film that starred Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

Roger O. Thornhill is an advertising executive, abducted by thugs who insist he is a man called George Kaplan. They pin a murder on him and he goes on the run, aided at times by the sexy and mysterious blonde Eve Kendal.

From New York to South Dakota, Thornhill is chased by spies, Federal agents, crop-dusting planes and involves car chases, the well-remembered climb up Mount Rushmore and the faces of US presidents past.

I’ll say no more but Rushmore never looked so funny.

Matt Day played Roger O. Thornhill and Amber McMahon was femme fatale Eve Kendall, both reprising their leading roles from the Melbourne seasons of North by Northwest.

Day was terrific as he channelled Cary Grant to a tee. He looked like Cary Grant, was a suave as Cary Grant and even managed to have his delivery down pat. Amber McMahon was the perfect foil. She was the woman veiled in mystery: was she a spy or the mistress of the bad guy?

The cast also included Queensland actors Christen O’Leary (Maggie and various roles) and Leon Cain (Janitor and various other roles), alongside Abigail McKern (Mrs Thornhill), Robert Menzies (Professor), Tom Davey (Leonard), Nicholas Bell (Newsreader), Peter Houghton (Gruzinski), Ezra Bix (Budnikov) and Roddy Peters (Bell Boy).

How the cast remembered who they were, where they were, which wig or costume to put on and even when they were on stage beats me, for the action moved as fast a movie.

But it was not just the cast that created the fun but the actions as well as cast members pushed chairs and tables around for car chases – and it was sheer mayhem onstage as Roger and Eve dangled perilously from Mount Rushmore.

The famous crop duster plane attack was scary on screen but hilarious when a bloke onstage was seen filming a model plane and projecting it onto the big screen.

There are so many elements that Simon Phillips pulled together with a magnificent piece of directing to create a unique theatrical experience.

It is well worth a look.

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