Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Circus and cabaret based on the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock in which the audience enters a darkly funny and twisted world of suspense and intrigue.
A family friendly (although, to be fair, occasionally bloody) circus act that involves aerial, trapeze and all manner of death-defying acts, all inspired by the master of … suspense himself, Mr Alfred Hitchcock. Certain films from his oeuvre are lined up for a radical interpretation by all manner of sinister genst and vampish blondes.
Music wise, there’s a surprising lack of Bernard Herrmann – the group preferring to ramp up the (Saul) Bass guitar, usually played by a sexy cross between Mesdames Danvers and Bates. This provides a suitably raucous soundtrack to a hour that could afford to be a lot more raucous in the actual execution. Perhaps they were muted by the crowd’s reaction: the audience at this performance were early Hitchcock (very British, pretty much silent) than Hollywood Hitchcock (gaudier, fond of a sick joke).
Essentially, each act – a trapeze act here, an aerial act there – takes its inspiration from the (family) plots and visual styles of Hitchcock’s films, and occasionally from the iconic title sequences. This is most successful, appropriately enough, when there are riffs on Vertigo, as you may expect in a show that involves tightrope walking. However, because of the relatively small size of the tent, there is never quite enough sense of danger – we’re certainly not getting to the heights of Mount Rushmore here, which must be frustrating for the talented alumni of No Fit State Circus.
Like Alfred himself, there’s some witty jokes: the cinematic showing-off of a single shot movie (Rope) translates to a single actor playing both murderer and victim. When Pyscho comes screeching into view, the aerial act that accompanies it is a good way to draw the (shower) curtains down on the act, although Norman’s house looks nothing like the one you remember from the movies (presumably the lawyers of Universal Studios are terrifying enough). The punchlines of some jokes are playfully delayed, so it takes a while to work out exactly what film is being referenced, and on occasion, the performances punch gleefully above their weight (all the major sequences in North By Northwest are present and correct, including the crop-dusting scene).
Since you get free entry into later shows at the Big Sexy Circus tent, it’s worth considering if this show would have benefited from being much less family friendly – indeed, Bigger and Sexier. There is clear and obvious talent here, and it sometimes feels restrained – as if by rope. All that said, it’s a funny and exciting hour, and while the venue is a little way out of town, it’s certainly worth you walking 39 Steps or more to get there.