Double Feature review – Hampstead Theatre, London ★★★★☆

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Review by Natalie Evans


Nighttime. A male silhouette is seen through the window of the entrance door of what resembles a 20th-century English cottage. He is wearing a coat and hat to shield himself from the incessant rain. 

Right out of a Hitchcock film itself with a gloomy atmosphere complemented by some overt pathetic fallacy, John Logan’s Double Feature invites us into the intense world of 1960s filmmaking from the first beat as the stage curtains draw wider, mimicking the frame of a silver screen when a film begins. Once the aforementioned silhouette enters the eerie home, we are introduced, one by one, to Vincent Price, Michael Reeves, Tippi Hedren, and of course Alfred Hitchcock. 

Anthony Ward’s set design was the clear highlight of this production. Impressive in its extremely detailed naturalism, everything about the visual we were presented with enlivened the story(s). In this way, the set was akin to a 5th character, and the portrayal was perfect. 

As for the four that inhabit this environment; all actors do an equally excellent job in bringing life and truth to their historical counterparts in this biopic piece, presenting them and their experiences with a nuanced believability. Fact and fiction(?) are brought together here, like with any other story ‘based on true events’, but no event in this piece felt far-fetched. Unfortunately.

There were many moments within this play that stood out for me, but Joanna Vanderham’s performance as Tippi Hedren was a breath of fresh air that she gave and took away at will. Indeed, following the deeply uncomfortable climax of her and Hitchcock’s storyline, I let out the breath that I wasn’t aware I had been holding for the previous 5 minutes. 

However, while these two masterfully held the audience captive with their silence while they were in focus, I found the silence between Hedren and Hitchcock when they weren’t to be quite clearly staged, and therefore quite awkward. I suppose I just didn’t believe that the Hitchcock portrayed in this production at least would go so long without saying something pretentious and/or problematic just to hear the sound of his own self-proclaimed genius. 

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Whereas, pan across to Price and Reeves and I quite easily just watched them cooking and eating in silence and accepted this as part of their scene. In fact, I often found my attention drifting back to them when it wasn’t their turn to be in frame. Possibly because the pasta looked delicious, but also their silence felt at least natural if not entirely comfortable. They didn’t seem to be waiting their turn. Time didn’t seem to slow. 

In all other regards though, Jonathan Kent pulled off the task of telling these simultaneous stories with seeming ease as the two pairs shared the stage in such a way that still allowed both to have full access to it. Weaving in, out, across each other, and occasionally colliding through space and time to highlight the unoriginality of their common dynamic; Maker and Muse. 

Double Feature brings to the surface the questions that artists and audiences alike often attempt to sweep away. Who holds the power in this relationship? Is it the elder? The more experienced? The man? The creator or the one who inspires the creation? 

Double Feature is at Hampstead Theatre until 16 March 2024.