THE HUDSUCKER PROXY
based on the Warner Brothers film by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Sam Raimi adapted by Simon Dormandy.
Liverpool Playhouse Williamson Square L1 1EL To 27 June 2015.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 June.
Time-stopping, heart-warming it should fall flat but flies in the face of expectation.
Giving a 1990s scepticism to the highest vein of earlier feelgood films, the Coen Brothers’ Hudsucker Proxy used visual cunning and a soundtrack of heftily recognisable tunes to attack big business in a fantasy set around a New York skyscraper where genuine feeling among the little people’s surrounded by the rich, powerful and devious.
Crammed with filmic references and devices, tying its cinematic energy, speed and slyness down to a three-dimensional staging seems doomed to failure, one of the daftest ideas anyone could have. It’s somehow fitting, if unfortunate, this co-production between Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre and Liverpool Playhouse should lose a cast member as it opens and end with its adapter/co-director playing the villain.
And, if it turns-out a success, that’s endemic in the story. When the Hudsucker boss leaps through a very high window, its power-brokers promote a lowly new employee in their campaign to bring the enterprise near extinction through his loss-making ideas.
Which turn out wildly profitable as he turns a zero – an empty circle – into a craze, the hula-hoop. More money-making trivia is employed in the plot to arouse jealousies as the flexi-straw and Frisbee come into being. There’s love between the newcomer and a investigative journalist oppressed by her superiors in the press.
It’s adapter, co-director and, as it’s turned-out performer, Simon Dormandy’s success. Propelled by movement specialist Toby Sedgwick, his nifty adaptation uses the stage’s apparent drawbacks to advantage, heightening perspectives, creating a table runway to the window where suicides jump, as two people bring-on a tall window-frame for the leaps and using apparently flattened facial features when newly-installed unbreakable plexiglass prevents another death-leap.
Group movement creates city busy-ness and a comically inventive outbreak of hula-hoop fever, the new invention multiplying balletically onstage, fitting the physiques of the familiar stage figures.
Dormandy’s aptly confident in the manner of Sidney Mussburger’s insincerity, while the good guys have individual warmth, Joseph Timm’s innocent Norville. Sinead Matthews’ earnest reporter and David Webber as the good angel from the depths giving this apparently fated project, played on Dick Bird’s grey-and –white fifties set, its own wonderful life.
Smitty: Rob Castell.
Hudsucker: Nick Cavaliere.
Sidney Mussburger: Simon Dormandy.
Miss Turner: Tamzin Griffin.
Buzz: Tim Lewis.
Amy Archer: Sinead Matthews.
Norville Barnes: Joseph Timms.
Moses: David Webber.
Directors: Simon Dormandy, Toby Sedgwick.
Designer: Dick Bird.
Lighting: Paul Keogan.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Video: Timothy Bird.
Assistant director: Anthony Lau.
Assistant lighting: Sarah Louise McColgan.
Assistant sound: Ben Grant.