North By Northwest

9 February 2016 | 4:48 pm | Stephanie Liew

"Those who missed its first incarnation will still be impressed by the performances."

An advertising exec, Roger O Thornhill, gets embroiled in a case of mistaken identity, and it's his life that could be on the line. When the thugs on his tail — who think he's a man by the name of Kaplan — try to pin a murder on him, he takes things into his own hands and tries to clear his name himself.

Following Melbourne Theatre Company's rousingly successful world premiere of North By Northwest last June, the Arts Centre has taken over producing the show this time around — and so soon. Aside from the addition of Gina Riley (as Thornhill's overbearing mother) and Lyall Brooks, the cast is the same. This time, however, it is held in the State Theatre, not the Playhouse. Those sitting in the circle may feel too far removed from the action — the Playhouse's intimate setting added to the suspense of the show, and elevated its comedy.

Nevertheless, those who missed its first incarnation will still be impressed by the performances — Amber McMahon's Eve Kendall in particular, playing off Matt Day's indignant but cheeky Thornhill — and by the use of miniatures, green screen and video for landscape scenes. The metal grid set replicates New York City's skyscrapers and grey demeanour.

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North By Northwest holds its own as a theatre production while also staying quite faithful to Hitchcock's original story. Iconic scenes (the crop duster, Mount Rushmore) are spoofed to some degree, but in good nature, and these are some of the play's most memorable moments.