Opening with the sound of ominous and recognisable strings, the immediate connection to Hitchcock will become apparent to any film buffs in the audience. As performer Emily Bruni appears and launches into her monologue, the premise is established and it’s clear we’re in for some black humour and filmic thrills.
The tight story centres on an actress auditioning for a new stage version of Psycho. She’s been out of work for some time, she isn’t optimistic about her chances, and yet she catches the attention of the auteur theatre director. From here, an artistic relationship develops, but, as the sinister prologue suggests, events are headed for a violent turn.
The staging is incredibly simple – a stool set on a maroon square – and through the power of lighting and a faint smoke machine, writer/director Matt Wilkinson creates various moods: stark, creepy, chaotic, and terrifying. More importantly, it is the play’s star who is really the key strength here. Bruni is magnetic in the role, performing with the confidence of a seasoned theatre player. She is able to traverse the extreme emotional states of the character as well as deliver perfectly-written jokes and hold attention for the show’s duration – an hour that zooms by.
Although the frame narrative makes it clear where the story is headed from the dark beginning, it is the journey that intrigues. There is a specificity of memory presented, and carefully chosen details help evoke place and character throughout. It isn’t a ‘big’ story. It is a concentrated focus on a very contained series of events – the telling of a single audition lasts around fifteen minutes. But the final effect is one of tension and a permeating unease. Psychodrama captivates and impresses throughout.