Jump to: navigation, search

The Guardian (15/Apr/2003) - Hitchcock Blonde keeps the audience spellbound

(c) The Guardian (15/Apr/2003)

Hitchcock Blonde keeps the audience spellbound

Two long-dead national treasures were brought back to life on the London stage last week: the comedian Tommy Cooper and the film director Alfred Hitchcock.

In Hitchcock Blonde, the action alternates between 1959 - when the director is casting for a blonde to play the body double in Psycho's shower scene - and 1999, when a film lecturer is trying to seduce a student who is helping him analyse an unknown early Hitchcock film.

The Sunday Times's John Peter adored Terry Johnson's "dazzling ... intelligent" work. The play is ostensibly about Hitchcock, sex and desire, but Peter reckoned there was more to it. "It is also a detective story, a biographical fantasy, an intellectual comedy, a parable about art as self-expression, a parable about art as a substitute for life, a play about life in films and films in life, about predators and victims, a play about pictures ... Semiotics and iconography by appointment."

The Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer thought that was over-egging the pudding. Yes, the play is "ambitious, ingenious and intriguing", but, he asked, "what does this long, elaborate and only fitfully entertaining play actually say? That Hitchcock was a weird guy who was terrified of human intimacy, and that Hitchcock anoraks are probably a pretty sad bunch, too. Hardly a hill of beans."

Despite accepting the play's faults - it is too long, unevenly acted and too clever for its own good - most critics were won over. Hitchcock Blonde is a "real mess", wrote the Financial Times's Alastair Macaulay, who felt Johnson, as director, must take responsibility. But, he said, "I recommend it. It's the kind of mess that's richer than several perfect plays." And the critics were as one in praise of William Hootkins's take on Hitchcock.