Outwardly frivolous but with a delightfully dark core, The Hudsucker Proxy is an outstanding version of a little-known Coen Brothers movie from 1994.
This is the first time one of the Coens’ works has been adapted for theatre, amazing really, considering how well you’d image films such as O Brother, Where Art Thou? and even The Big Lebowski would lend themselves to the stage.
It’s set in New York of the late 1950s, a booming capitalist milieu where all you need is a can-do outlook and a whammy of an idea to make it big.
That’s what small-town rube Norville Barnes believes anyhow, as he starts out in the mailroom of Hudsucker Industries on a journey that will lead him from warm-hearted humility to self-destructive corporate greed.
Performances are wonderful, particularly Joseph Timms’s Norville and Simon Dormandy as Sidney Mussburger, the Hudsucker exec who smoothly installs Norville as president to his own greedy ends.
Sinead Matthews plays Amy, the newspaper hack whose shallow bond with Norville gets much deeper and lies at the emotional heart of the story.
Kudos must also go the lighting, set design and directing teams, who have conjured up one of the snappiest and most dynamic shows I’ve seen in a long time.
*The Hudsucker Proxy is a co-production of Nuffield and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres. The play will run in Southampton until May 30. Visit nuffieldtheatre.co.uk for more information.