Central to the plot of The Hudsucker Proxy is the fictional story of the invention of the hula hoop; the kind of toy that anyone could enjoy, ‘from eight to eighty’ as the slogan has gone before.
This proves true of this adaptation as well. Its imaginative staging and good clean fun spans the ages to create a real crowd-pleaser for old and young alike.
There are no surprises for those familiar with the Coen Brother’s 1994 film on which this new stage version – a collaboration between the Playhouse and Nuffield in Southampton – is very faithfully based. With that in mind, it is the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ that holds the challenge for the company, which utilises the circus skills of physical theatre experts Complicite.
It tells of the rise of Norville Barnes, who finds himself CEO-by-proxy of a New York conglomerate, after its head honcho throws himself out of the 44th floor window. In desperation, the board decides to deliberately depreciate the stock price to ensure they can afford to remain in control of the company; and humble Norville’s simple invention, a plastic hoop – “you know, for kids” is bound to do the trick. Or so they think.
With ace reporter Amy Archer on the case to get the scoop on this mysterious new business leader taking the Big Apple by storm, Norville looks destined to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor as power and success start to go to his head.
It’s the imaginitive staging of this production that delights and gives this theatrical version purpose. How do you throw yourself out of a window, or take a lift up and down a skyscraper, or tinker with the machinations of a building’s clock on stage? Projections, good lighting, and a healthy dollop of imagination help The Hudsucker Proxy go far. Joseph Timms’s wide-eyed, energetic Norville makes for a sweet and sympathetic protagonist. Sinead Matthews’s Amy doesn’t stray far from Jennifer Jason Leigh’s movie portrayal – but if it ain’t broke, and all that. David Webber, as the seemingly unassuming janitor Moses who really the inside track on all things Hudsucker, has a strong and reassuring presence throughout.
Fantastic entertainment with an impressive style, all the better for its broad and inclusive appeal.