Mary Bijou – Hitch! review, by Gareth Pahl

Theatre runs in my blood, it has always been in my life and always will hold a special place in my heart. I am also, as friends may describe me, the most critical critic! Being a hybrid of performer, designer and teacher, high expectation is as much my downfall as it is my making.

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If you expect sharp, polished performance then perhaps Mary Bijou’s ‘Hitch’ is not the show for you. However, what ‘Hitch’ does provide is a good, fun piece of collaborative cabaret style theatre. If, like me, you are excited about the dangers of live theatre then this is an absolute must see. Parts of it were perfect, parts of it were well recovered, and parts of it were just plane crash.

The concept – a series of performances inspired by the most loved films of Alfred Hitchcock, is ambitious but interesting. Mary Bijou have bottled the insanely morbid imagination of Hitchcock and added their own madness into the mix to create this ambitious, yet strangely captivating piece of theatre.
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The performers present with a range of talents – notably in circus, dance, music and comedy and they draw on these skills to create a unique and interesting collaborative performance. The performances are accompanied by the musical works of Tom Elstob, Bethan Cecil and Branwen Munn who created the soundtrack specifically for the show. There were technical issues that were slightly annoying during the first act, although these were ironed out during the interval.

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My favourite musical number was the accompaniment to Anna Sandreuter’s incredible aerial rope act. Not only was the music beautiful, but Anna’s performance on the ropes was flawless and breath-taking. She also made it look easy – and trust me it really isn’t! It’s a shame that Anna’s hula hoop act didn’t go without flaw, however the cabaret nature of the show meant she could recover well and with comedic effect – even adding to the performance.

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Laura Moy’s performance on the Chinese pole inspired by the film ‘The Birds’ was of equally high calibre. The audience were left captivated and in awe of her incredible versatility as she climbed and performed on the pole with a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in the world’s best circuses. One particular drop made my stomach turn as she dropped from the top of the pole, catching it just shy of the ground.

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The evening’s compere was George Orange who’s crazy antics left the audience either in fits of laughter, utter confusion or completely horrified (Why did I open my mouth and reveal my phobia of frogs?). His version of the film ‘Vertigo’ was very hit and miss – at times making you wonder if the mistakes were deliberate or accidental. George’s most notable performance however was in a dance/contortion piece based on ‘The Trouble With Harry’. His flexibility and convincing ability to ‘play dead’ meant that the two other performers  could drag his body around, fold him up, dance with him, and whatever else one might be tempted to do with a body!

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The performance was interspersed with semi-convincing lip syncs to real interviews with cast members of Hitchcock’s films.  In particular there was an interesting piece, in which cast member Joe Wild perfectly lip sync’s to an interview with Kim Novak. Cue ‘Hitchcock’s Leading Ladies’ – a hilarious dance routine by the cast and crew.

Later in the show we see a rather distasteful stripper routine. Personally I felt this let the show down, it was unnecessary and arguably disrespectful. For a production that seemed to be celebrating the works of Hitchcock it seemed totally bizarre to include such a scene that to me undermined the whole production. It should be mentioned that this scene seemed to be like marmite – there were clearly audience members who loved this moment.

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The production ended with a very evocative and cleverly devised piece based on perhaps Hitchcock’s most iconic scene – the shower scene from ‘Psycho’. I won’t say much about it as I don’t want to spoil it – but it really is good!  If I had to rate this show I would be generous and give it 4 stars, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it there were lots of things I could comment on to bring it down from perfect 5.

I mentioned earlier – if sharp and polished performance is your bag then ‘Hitch’ may not be for you. They were brave tackling a concept that was ambitious, however, Mary Bijou created an interesting and on the whole, well executed show. It did have its faults, and some of them were epic, but generally these almost added to the enjoyment of the show. It is indeed the danger and thrill of live performance that gives this piece its unbeatable charm (minus naked Hitchcock scene).

Review by Gareth Pahl

Hitch! is currently on tour – find forthcoming dates on the Mary Bijou Facebook page

All photographs by Tom Beardshaw (license: Creative Commons attribution)

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