A well executed performance bringing the famous Coen brothers to the stage! It's a shame there wasn't a bit more physical theatre.
This week The Hudsucker Proxy comes to the Nuffield Theatre. An original production by the Nuffield Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, in association with Complicite, is based on the famous Coen brother’s film of the same name. This is the first time a Coen brother’s film has been adapted for the stage.
It’s safe to say this production didn’t start well. The play was delayed by 10 days due to a hiccup in the dress rehearsal that saw two cast members injured having to leave the production. Luckily Tim Lewis and the productions co-director Simon Dormandy stepped in but this did not have any effect on the excellent performance by all.
The large open space of the set was decorated with files and cabinets with a long lonely table in the middle and we were soon transported to the postal room of Hudsucker Industries. Dick Bird’s set design was flawless, one of the best I have seen grace the Nuffield stage. The tall looming structures of files and cabinets move with ease to create separate scenes and lighting, designed by Paul Keogan, and is utilised effectively to create an elevator and even the dingy atmosphere of the mail room. I question one aspect of the set however, the projection. The projection was well executed but I feel it detracts from the era the play is set with in. Those with an eye for detail will notice mistakes in the elevator numbers spinning past. It was just a little too modern for me given the setting.
The set comes to life and we see the story unfold as Moses (David Webber) tells the story of Norville Barnes (Joseph Timms) on his journey from bottom floor to the top and his encounters with Sidney Mussburger (Simon Dormandy), Amy Archer (Sinead Matthews) and others as success soon turns to failure and looks like time is about to repeat itself. This is perhaps the easiest of the Coen brother’s plots to follow and the story lends itself to the stage.
Every performer deserves recognition, flitting between a number of different roles with ease, not making it obvious they were played by the same person where I often forgot the cast was significantly small in relation to the number of roles being portrayed. However, Miss Turner (Tamzin Griffin) felt a little lost on stage, I often found it hard to understand the lines she delivered and her performance in comparison to others wasn’t quite there. On the flip side Matthews stormed her performance as Amy and I felt for her even through her conniving, plotting journalist ways. You want her and Norville to get together and she tugs on the heartstrings of every audience member while making them laugh all the same. Webber is a tour de force commanding the stage and engaging every eye and ear in the house.
Directors Dormandy and Toby Sedgwick had issues to deal with and they dealt with them well. Direction was slick, to the point and perfect for this production. It was said this performance lends itself to physical theatre but it didn’t feel like there was enough and where there was physical theatre I don’t believe it was used as effectively as it could have been.
This production is a definite must see, Coen fans won’t be left disappointed and those new to the Coen franchise may well become new fans. The Nuffield and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse have done something different and this time it’s definitely paid off.
The Hudsucker Proxy runs until 30th May before it moves to the Liverpool Playhouse on the 4th June. Tickets can be purchased from the box office or online.