Gareth Smith reviews Hitchcock Redux (Twelve Cabins Twelve Vacancies & Souvenirs of a Killing), a production from Company of Sirens taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock seems to have an unusual hold on the theatre. His films are primarily remembered for their explicitly cinematic spectacles and yet, whether via stage adaptations of his works or self-conscious engagements with his influence (like Terry Johnson’s Hitchcock Blonde), his presence continues to trouble an artform that he is rarely associated with. Perhaps it is the case that stage drama is best equipped to analyse his continuing relevance now that cinema itself has moved on – to pick up the pieces and explore the dramatic possibilities of a complex legacy. Company of Sirens, in Hitchcock Redux, perform a dissection of two of Hitchcock’s most famous and acclaimed films – Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960) – in order to examine how they have become embedded in both individual and collective psyches.
12 Cabins and 12 Vacancies features a morbid commentary on the intertwined fates of Marion Crane and Norman Bates with an intense focus on grief and loss. Souvenirs of a Killing feels less immediately tied to Vertigo, but shares a similar preoccupation with obsession, fear and an interrogative attitude towards the entire concept of memory. Through the use of film clips, photographs, music and movement, Hitchcock Redux essentially takes a sharp knife to each film and then places them over and within an entirely different narrative. By doing so, it suggests that memories – vivid, subjective and endlessly replayed – display many cinematic qualities, while cinema itself, interwoven into our lives, becomes a key part of our memories.
Hitchcock’s relationships with his actresses and their characters remains one of the most troubling aspects of his legacy, but it is often difficult to tell how much Hitchcock Redux is invested in exploring or undermining this element of his work. Both 12 Cabins and 12 Vacancies and Souvenirs of a Killing feature women who are used as the symbolic representatives of defining moments in the lives of men and re-enact scenes as their filmic counterparts. Marion Crane in particular is an eternal victim, permanently dying over and over again on screen, and while 12 Cabins 12 Vacancies plays with the iconography of the infamous shower scene, it is often unclear whether the play wants to look closely at this key criticism of Hitchcock’s work.
The small cast of writer Chris Durnall and designer Anghard Matthews creates an uncomfortable intimacy which is enhanced by the suitably claustrophobic staging. The nervous energy of the performers and the fear in their eyes is part of the overall effect of bringing us into direct confrontation with that which we would rather not look at. The lack of narrative coherence is a natural consequence of an extended exploration of fragmentation and repetition, but whether this creates an open space for meanings to proliferate or an ultimately empty void will depend on the disposition of individual audience members and their predilection for abstract theatre. Hitchcock Redux raises a number of interesting questions which it has no intention of answering, but instead leaves them searching for meaning in an endless circle. Like the trajectory of a dizzying fall. Or blood circling a drain.
Hitchcock Redux is a Company of Sirens production currently showing at Chapter Arts.