Review: The Hudsucker Proxy at The Liverpool Playhouse

Posted on 9 June 2015
By Chris High
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Can it really be 21 years since the Cohen brother’s classic comedy The Hudsucker Proxy – the stage production of which is currently running at The Liverpool Playhouse – first burst onto cinema screens starring Tim Robbins, Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh? Where on earth has the time gone?

Well to answer that, we could do worse than ask Moses, the Hudsucker building’s kindly janitor, who has the ability to stop time and thereby recount the tale of Norville Barnes who has a dream, follows it, finds it, loses it then ultimately rediscovers what’s important in life: the journey and not the destination.

And what a journey the directors Simon Dormandy & Toby Sedgwick, along with production designer Dick Bird, take us on, from the moment the lights dim and the marvellous cast take to the stage.

Successful movies can sometimes be something of a disaster in transition to the live arena, but with The Hudsucker Proxy nothing could be further from the truth as the audience are injected with the same energy as the cast seem to have been right from the very start, as the production line of the deep dark basement of the Hudsucker factory bristles with efficiency, fun and camaraderie as a vast clock face projection – predominantly displaying the figure 8 (or two hoops on top of each other) – ticks away in the background.

Yes this is high farce, but it is all put together with such flair the result is as slick as any multi-million dollar blockbuster you are every likely to see and with all of the imagery and more of the imagination; it’ll be a long time before the memory of Mr. Hudsucker’s demise leaves the mind’s eye, for instance.

Of course, all of this needs a well drilled cast and here the Everyman & Playhouse along with The Southampton Nuffield have struck gold, particularly in Joseph Timms and Sinead Matthews whose two central characters – Norville and Amy – are a delight, full of zest and barely off stage.

Superb too is Tim Lewis who as Elevator Boy, Buzz, manages to stay just the right side of manic whilst giving his plethora of peripheral characters just the right amount of charisma not to over shadow each other. As Sidney Mussburger, the unscrupulous boss who comes up with the plan to off load Hudsucker stock only to buy it back at rock bottom prices, Simon Dormandy really makes the part his own with a presence that is both intimidating and hilarious, whereas the wise, kindly Moses is given real gusto by David Webber.

Yet as great as these physical performances are, there is one character yet to be mentioned and that is the staging, costume and set design which is – quite simply – mesmerising in the way it all comes together to the extent where watching what is happening to the left, right, below and above is as entertaining as watching the action itself.
Express-paced, polished, beautifully managed and – above all else – fabulously funny, The Hudsucker Proxy not only translates from stage to screen, it almost rewrites the rule book as to how it should be done for other productions.

The Hudsucker Proxy
Liverpool Playhouse
June 5 – June 27
Directors: Simon Dormandy & Toby Sedgwick
Authors: Ethan Cohen, Joel Cohen & Sam Raimi
Designer: Dick Bird
Cast Includes: Joseph Timms, Sinead Matthews, David Webber, Tim Lewis, Simon Dormandy, Tamzin Griffin, Nick Cavaliere, Rob Castell
Running Time: 2 hrs 20 mins
PR Rating: *****