North by Northwest

MTC_North by NorthwestMelbourne Theatre Company presents the theatrical spectacular North by Northwest, a stunning stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s infamous spy thriller in a world premiere season opens at Arts Centre Melbourne from 4 June 2015.

Declared ‘the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures’ by its screenwriter Ernest Lehman, the 1959 American spy thriller was an instant classic. Now, using 21st century stage technology, Hitchcock’s supreme suspense caper is brought to life, with every twist, every thrill, each pass of the crop-duster, and the thrilling climax on Mount Rushmore writ large on stage.

When Roger O. Thornhill, a suave and successful advertising executive, is abducted by thugs who insist he is a man called George Kaplan, there’s obviously been a mix up. When they don’t believe him, that’s infuriating. When they try to kill him, that’s frightening. And when they pin a murder on him, that’s time to run! From New York to North Dakota, Thornhill is chased by spies, Feds and the glamorous, cool blonde.

Adapted by Carolyn Burns and directed by MTC luminary Simon Phillips, North by Northwest features Matt Day, returning to MTC after last appearing in Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot, as the man-on-the-run, Roger O. Thornhill, while Amber McMahon, making her MTC debut, plays the cool blonde, Eve Kendall.

They are joined on stage by a stellar cast featuring Nicholas Bell (The Speechmaker), Ian Bliss (Hamlet), Sheridan Harbridge (The Beast), Matt Hetherington (Next to Normal), John Leary (Private Lives), Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Realism), Deidre Rubenstein (His Girl Friday), Justin Stewart Cotta (Glengarry Glen Ross), Lucas Stibbard (Boy Girl Wall) and Lachlan Woods (Hamlet).

North by Northwest has long been one of my favourite films and when the offer came to work on a stage adaptation, I couldn’t resist. It’s the perfect challenge,” says Director Simon Phillips. “Like so many of the Hitchcock greats, large sections of the film have a taut, sometimes claustrophobic intensity that makes for a perfect stage experience.”

“But of course it’s the ‘impossible’ bits that really get theatrical juices flowing. Who’d be stupid enough to try to depict on stage a man chased by a crop-duster? I would. You don’t get this much crammed into a theatrical experience all that often so it’s going to be an action-packed, audacious and occasionally pretty steamy ride!”

During his twelve years as MTC Artistic Director, Simon Phillips directed 60 productions including The Importance of Being Earnest, Hamlet, Richard III, August: Osage County, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Visit, The Blue Room, Life x 3 and Bombshells. Last year he directed Pennsylvania Avenue for MTC, reuniting with Joanna Murray-Smith and Bernadette Robinson after the runaway success of Songs for Nobodies.

Across Simon’s 30-year career, his directing credits range from new works, Shakespearean classics, musicals and opera. His musical credits include Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Australasian version of Love Never Dies, The Drowsy Chaperone, and High Society.

Carolyn Burns began her career in New Zealand, devising and writing The Retrievers, an 18-part TV comedy thriller for children. Her first play for adults, Objection Overruled, was performed in all major New Zealand theatres. After moving to Australia, she worked as a journalist with SBS before attending the screenwriting course at AFTRS and writing for ABC children’s television.

In Adelaide Burns wrote four plays, including adapting both Haxby’s Circus and High Society for the stage. High Society later toured Australia and the UK. Since then, she has worked as a dramaturg and script editor, and is currently collaborating on three new works for the stage.

North by Northwest
Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 4 June – 4 July 2015
Bookings: (03) 8688 0800 or online at:

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: courtesy of MTC