TWENTY one years after the Coen Brothers’ film The Hudsucker Proxy hit the big screen, it has been adapted for the stage, starting at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton, in a joint production with Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and Complicite.
It is the first time that a Coen Brothers films has been staged, and designer Dick Bird has stayed faithful to the massive and iconic original. This is BIG BUSINESS in Manhattan, and the image is all important.
Set in the early 1950s, it’s the story of Norville Barns, a dreamily ambitious youngster from Muncie, still quite a small town in Indiana, and his meteoric rise to fame.
It all starts when the founder of Hudsucker Industries throws himself to his death from the 44th floor of his office building. Before the blood has set on the sidewalk, his second in command is hatching a plan to drive the shares of the thriving company down to a level where he and his fellow board members can buy them all up and make a financial killing.
His plan is to appoint young Norville as President, losing the confidence of the stock exchange.
But things just don’t go according to plan in this stylish satire of love, ambition and big business practices. Not only does young Norville have a world-shattering idea, but he falls in love with a hard-bitten reporter who soon finds her soft centre (or center, perhaps).
The Nuffield production, which goes on to Liverpool before Complicite takes it on a world tour, had a rocky start. Adaptor and co-director Simon Dormandy stepped into the role of Mussburger, and Tim Lewis took over as Buzz the liftman when Clive Wood and Nathan McMullen were hospitalised after an incident at the dress rehearsal, and the show’s opening was delayed.
Joseph Timms is a charmingly gauche Norville with Sinead Matthews as Amy “Pulitzer” Archer and David Webber as the angelus ex machina, Moses.
The action is fast and furious as the machinations of the board room, the frantic drudgery of the mail room, and the long drop from one to the other come to life on the brilliantly versatile set.
It’s well worth seeing, for those who love the film and those who have never seen it.