Alfred Hitchcock’s claim to fame is that he produced 53 films in 40 years – and in this show, the “Mary Bijou Cabaret and Social Club” employ a variety of circus acts to give us a taste of his better-known productions. Hosted in the sumptuous Spiegeltent, the show opened with a daring and dramatic display of frenzied pole work, with the main performer throwing herself every which way to represent a feathered attack by the infamous Birds. I was exhausted just watching her, and it certainly worked to capture the audience’s attention right away.
The company mix it up a little with live music and songs, authentic voice-overs, and some instantly recognisable original music from the films. The compère covers the set changes by interacting with the audience, asking questions that Hitchcock himself might have chosen – such as what we were the most afraid of. He also did a great routine on a slack line, connecting us all with the movie Vertigo, and played the part of a dead corpse with such conviction it was frightening.
Amongst the more direct references to familiar films, there was an amusing interlude offered by three men in drag, playing the parts of Hitchcock's famous blonde leading ladies and dancing to an old 60's track. Their moves were pretty synchronised and what they lacked in style, they certainly made up for in effort. Another performer displayed superb skill on the hanging rope, then later returned with hula hoops for a wondrous job in multi-tasking. Using the theme of marriage and murder, she fired questions at the audience whilst continuing her acrobatics; such chillingness and control made for a class act.
There were some rather dubious antics involving a wheelchair, and one performer whose hyper-mobility took the very meaning of the word “contortionist” to a different level; the audience seemed to be enjoying it, but to me it felt painful at the very least. I also wondered how Hitchcock might have felt about the fat-suit strip-tease which represents the director himself, and I struggled to see the relevance of that segment to the rest of the show. It felt a little disrespectful to the man who I thought they were meant to be celebrating.
But I have to say that the best was saved till last, for the night’s real show-stopper was the shower scene from Psycho. What the company, and especially the two central performers, managed to create with a plastic sheet suspended from the ceiling was nothing less than spectacular. It was worth seeing the show just for that moment.
This is an entertaining show with a difference, and it was clear that I was watching a talented group of performers with a variety of circus and cabaret skills between them. There was fabulous use of lighting for dramatic effect and the audience clearly appreciated the world of suspense and atmosphere the company had created. It might not have contained any "Stories that go Bump in the Night", but I wouldn't mind betting that even Hitch himself would have approved.