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Five Reasons to See... The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock makes its premiere at Leicester's Curve Theatre later this week before a national tour. Here, Kieran Johnson talks to Jack McNamara, director of The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock and artistic director of New Perspectives.

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Alfred Hitchcock, at the height of his powers, is possessed by a dreamlike vision of a woman. From his director's chair the sixty year old Hitchcock begins to unravel some of the defining films of our time, drawing us into the imagination of one of the world's most mysterious creative minds.

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock
Pamela Raith Photography

Adapted for New Perspectives from his award-winning radio play, Rudkin's poetic new play takes a unique look at the way the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock developed the ideas of his most famous films, including Marnie, Vertigo, Psycho and Strangers on A Train. The result is a unique and haunting character study and an unprecedented journey into the mind of one our most fascinating cultural icons.

The play premieres on 27 September at Leicester Curve.

Jack McNamara, director of The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock and artistic director of New Perspectives talks us through five reasons we should see the play:

1) This is Hitchcock as you've never seen him.
Before I came across this play I thought I knew Hitchcock. I had seen the films, I knew his public persona and I had read and watched a lot of biographical material. And yet this startling play showed me a Hitchcock I could never have imagined. The private, vulnerable, real man at the centre of all those images. I am almost always disappointed with biographical theatre or film, as it seems destined to fall short of capturing the true essence of its subject. But quite miraculously, Rudkin's play manages exactly the opposite. It is Hitchcock through and through; beautiful, mysterious and full of tension. In Rudkin's hands Hitchcock emerges as one of theatre's great tragic heroes.

2) The language is second to none

How do you communicate the unique beauty of Hitchcock's films onstage? You cannot show the films themselves - that would make the whole enterprise redundant. The only way is to make the language as vivid on your ear as the films are vivid on your eye. Rudkin first wrote this play for radio – so the emphasis is heavily on the words. His command of words and turns of phrase are so powerful, it feels as though he has somehow gained access to Hitchcock's deepest inner thoughts. We don't give our audience a cinema screen. Instead, the language activates their own private cinema, the one in every person's head.

3) The play answers impossible questions

Where did Hitchcock's creativity stem from? Why did he develop his lifelong obsession with elusive women and murder? Hitchcock rarely wrote anything down and kept his private life extremely private, so most of these are questions biographers would not bother answering. But Rudkin has a very personal theory as to where it all came from. Something profound happened to Hitchcock as a fifteen-year old boy that set him on his distinctive creative path. As far as I know, this play is the first time this particular story has been brought to light.

4) The best way to explore one art form is through another

Shakespeare's plays, like most, are open to constant interpretation, rethinking and restaging. Hitchcock's films are not. The final edits are locked off. They can't be reopened, only watched over and over. So how can we interrogate them creatively, learn from them again and revitalise them in the way we can with Shakespeare's plays? The only way to dramatically re-engage with these films is through another medium. Rudkin first did it with a radio play, which won a number of awards when it was first broadcast. Yet what the radio lacked was of course the physical presence of 'the man' and 'the stage' - which is what we are finally able to do here.

5) Martin Miller is Hitchcock from the inside out.

How do you cast for a part as visually distinctive as Alfred Hitchcock? I was intent on not having an impersonator. It would be a superficial achievement, and the part is so demanding I did not want to limit myself with casting. Instead, I was much more interested in someone who could resemble the inner Hitchcock rather than the outer, because I knew if the inside was right, the outside would follow. Hitchcock's look is partly based on physique but is also largely about how he carried and presented himself and what his thoughts about his own body were. In person, Martin Miller looks very little like Hitchcock, but the minute he walks onto the stage you know exactly who you are looking at.

The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock opens at Leicester's Curve Theatre on 27 Sep and runs until 5 Oct, before a national tour.