Arts Interview: Actor Matt Day Talks About The Return Season Of North By Northwest In Melbourne

For two weeks only, the incredible cast of North By Northwest are taking to the stage in the New Year for a return season. This Alfred Hitchcock classic will be brought to life on stage with the same incredible cast but with the addition of Gina Riley. We had a chat with lead actor Matt Day to gain some perspective on North by Northwest 2.0 and whether or not it’s better to see the film first or the stage show.

Congratulations on your return season of North by Northwest. What are you most looking forward to the second time around?

I’m just looking forward to getting back in the room with same group of actors and stage crew. They’re a great bunch of people to work with and it’s a really great feeling on stage and backstage with everyone. It’s fun to be reunited with everyone again and give it another go.

This also means that you’re going into rehearsals again. Have you got any fresh ideas to bring to the table? Or will you be sticking close to the direction from your last season?

It seemed to work pretty well last season, so I don’t know if I want to mess with the formula much. One of the great things about working on stage is that you do get a chance to try out new things during the course of the run, so hopefully something inspirational will strike at some point, but for now, I’m just happy to go back into what we had in the first season.

You’ve got some fresh blood in the mix as well with Gina Riley joining you all. What are you most excited about having her on board?

She’s got some serious comedy chops that’s for sure. I’ve never met Gina and we’ve certainly never worked together so it’s always fun to kind of work with someone who’s work you admire. She’s a real talent so that’s always an enjoyable experience and plus we get to make new friends.

Audiences who loved the show last time can come and see it again, but for those who haven’t seen North by Northwest yet, what can you tell us about it?

It’s an ambitious piece of theatre; it’s kind of a quasi-cinematic experience on stage. It’s fast-paced, romantic, and humorous; there’s a lot of comedy going on. For me it’s kind of like a wind up toy; you turn the springs, you wind it up and then it just unfurls in front of you without any time to think.

If theatregoers have no idea what this show is about, do you think they should watch the film first or come see the stage show?

If they haven’t seen the film perhaps they should just come and see the play first, and then they can watch the film afterwards and make the comparisons. Personally, my own preference would be to go into any play and not know anything; the less I know about it the better. I think that’s kind of good advice for this one as well.

Carey Grant, who is an absolute classic, made the role of Roger Thornhill famous. Did you feel intimidated at all or any pressure to fill his shoes?

My approach to the part is pretty much my approach to any part; I have to think about who Roger Thornhill is and how I’m going to play that particular man in these particular set of circumstances, and as difficult as it was, I had to ignore the baggage left behind by Carey Grant. I could have just ended up with egg on my face if I tried to do a kind of Carey Grant impersonation, so it was really about trying to find the truth, play it and put the Matt Day spin on it.

On the surface, the plot is all about mistaken identity. Have you ever in real life been mistaken for someone else?

Yeah, usually it’s like someone’s cousin or something, they’d say; “Hey! It’s Dave. We met at that work thing.” Generally something like that.

Alfred Hitchcock is an icon. Why do you think his works stand the test of time?

I think that Hitchcock understood his audience, he understood people, he understood suspense and he was just a real master at telling a story, and that’s why his work still stands up to this day. It’s hard to kind of find someone who’s comparable really.

Did you grow up watching his films? Or were you a bit of a scaredy cat?

I think I watched them when I was a kid. I’m sure there was some Hitchcock marathon on TV at some point. If I had to pick a favourite it’d be a toss up between Rope and Psycho.


North by Northwest is showing at The Arts Centre Melbourne from January 29 to February 13 with tickets on sale now from…


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