Veronica Smart is as smart as her name. Ambitious, alluring, avaricious. Everything a femme fatale should be.
In Vertigo Theatre Company’s 150-minute thriller, filmed largely in black and white with one colour – red – highlighting moments of action or arousal, Mrs Smart plots a dark and sordid revenge when she finds her husband Cliff in flagrante with his secretary.
This tawdry tale is introduced by Detective Sal Pelletier, a gravel-voiced man with a permanent cigarette in his hand. As he recounts scene by scene, he watches as we do as the story unfolds.
Writer/director Craig Hepworth and producer Karl Burge man the cameras (which are mobile phones) and brought their nine strong cast together in a versatile location – the Great Northern Warehouse in Manchester. Without any experience in filming a digital show, they have created a clever and engrossing piece which delivers both a homage to the film noir style and the requisite number of shocks you might expect from pulp fiction novellas.
Both the Smarts are lowlifes, feeding off each other and chewing at the edges of their decaying marriage. Just as Cliff looks to replace his wife with a younger model (blonde, beautiful, without heart), so does Veronica look to entrap her sixteen-year-old pupil, Jimmy, who has a difficult home life he wants to escape.
Noir takes its time to reveal its cards. It is over an hour before Veronica shows her hand and makes her move. Her red dress, ‘revealing every curve’ turns the head of more than one pupil and pushes them towards the eventual ending where the rules of noir definitely apply.
On the way there are complexities: the plain girl whose crush on Miss leads her to seek a startling transformation; the street kid who acts tough but misses a home life; the parents who are at a loss of how to deal with their growing offspring and their need to spread their wings.
In the cast Emma Morgan and Richard Allen excel as Veronica and Jimmy, Rebecca-Clare Evans and Anna Hickling convince as set-in-her-ways mother and rebel daughter. John Tueart’s Cliff veers a little into caricature, and Steve Connolly’s detective is on the edge of parody, but both fit the style of the piece.
Joe Slack’s street kid Riff is believable if a little underused, while Luke Richards has a couple of fine scenes as Jimmy’s lonely father. Jade Shaw’s Lana, Betty and Clara show a range which could well be exploited more in future productions.
Noir is a fine attempt to evoke the spirit of those 40s thrillers, right from the mock-up logo at the start which harks back to Universal.
You can watch Noir on stream.theatre from 23rd – 25th July at 7pm, and on demand from 26th July – 8th August. Purchase your ticket at https://www.stream.theatre/season/172 For more about Vertigo Theatre Company go to https://www.vertigotheatreproductions.co.uk/
Reviewer: Louise Penn
Reviewed: 23rd July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★