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The Hudsucker Proxy (Liverpool Playhouse)

Complicite's adaptaion of the Coen Brothers' classic is an innovative screwball comedy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
'Exuberant entertainment' - The Hudsucker Proxy
© Clare Park

Well, they say (or Dylan does): "There's no success like failure... and failure's no success at all."

First, The Producers, and now The Hudsucker Proxy, in which the board of the eponymous company has decided to drive down its value so they can snap up shares at bargain prices.

Rather than being defeated by Waring Hudsucker's defenestration after he ends it all via the window on the 45th floor, that leaves them an opening. Enter innocent abroad Norville Barnes from Muncie, Indiana, with his strange ideas, apparently the perfect proxy.

Based on the Coen Brothers' 1994 film, the stage version takes a bit of getting into at first. The somewhat convoluted plot is further complicated by a liberal coating of fantasy, involving a kind of time travel.

The saga features Norville's fall and rise and fall, from postroom boy to president, with the help of a lot of bust and boom, boardroom and newsroom shenanigans, intermissions in bars and elevators, wisecracks of course - and hula hoops.

The cast are at the top of their game, and they need to be in adaptor Simon Dormandy and Toby Sedgwick's sometimes spectacular production. It's flawlessly designed (Dick Bird) and effortlessly choreographed, with one of most cunning sets you'll see. Talk about the devil in the detail... but rather than spoil the surprise (the myriad of clever little touches: lighting, video, sound, even mime - indeed, especially the miming), let's just say the result is a joy to behold.

'First class exuberant entertainment'

Joseph Timms is sublime as Norville, who inevitably ends up big-headed and cynical, but is perfectly foiled by sassy journalist Amy Archer, aka his PA, who gradually becomes warm-hearted in Sinead Matthews' Katherine Hepburn-esque portrayal.

Tamzin Griffin also comes up with the goods, sweetly serving up a floozy or animated secretary with cartoonish ease. Rob Castell's flamboyant crooner is another sparkling cameo; likewise, David Webber's serene Moses, who really does seem to know everything.

By contrast, there's Nick Cavaliere, the devilish Hudsucker himself then his better half, Norville's guardian angel The Chief, while Simon Dormandy makes an excellent job of purportedly evil genius Sidney Mussburger. And I mustn't forget Norville's so-called buddy, the smartass lift operator, Buzz (Tim Lewis).

This is a mouthwatering production of a truly classic screwball comedy: gloriously silly, absolutely fabulous. First class exuberant entertainment.

The Hudsucker Proxy is at Liverpool Playhouse until 27 June