‘Hitchcock' had an old-worldly charm and enough ingredients to leave a deep sense of trepidation long afterwards

Most of Hitchcock's characters are caught inextricably in the puppeteer's strings of their past. And, the storylines, designed to necessitate a peek into the darker side of our own consciences; not in guilt or shame, but with a secret, silver thrill. As he said, his audiences “like to put their toe in the cold water of fear”.

Stray Factory, the theatre group, recently devoted an evening to Hitchcock at the Museum Theatre. The three plays were from the iconic series ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents', though none were originally written or directed by Hitchcock — he'd merely hosted the show. In fact, the entire evening was a recreation of the show itself; short skits introduced by a dispassionate, wry-humoured host (in this case, Freddy Koikaran). It even began the same way, with the famous nine-line caricature of the rotund Hitchcock projected onstage on old-fashioned film.

The sets, stark, balanced, geometric, and in only blacks and whites, pronounced no verdict on who was good, and who, bad.

The characters, however, true to Hitchcockian style, are never black or white. No heroes or villains, vamps or saints.

They are singularly potent cocktails of their circumstances, their fears and their own neuroses — complex psychological subjects that Hitchcock would then proceed to unravel slowly, teasingly.

The first was ‘The Right Kind of House', directed by Mathivannan Rajendran.

A widow, Evelyn Mulwray, puts her house up for sale at an extortionate price. It's half a decade before White, a rich man with nothing to lose, comes along. As they celebrate the deal with a clink of glasses, they both realise that there's more to the story than they'd supposed.

‘Triggers in Leash'

“The next will be a Western. But, there won't be any horses onstage. They were having trouble remembering their dialogues,” introduced a poker-faced Freddy. “Of course, the actors weren't much better, but we're stuck with them.” ‘Triggers in Leash', by Vivek Hariharan, set in a restaurant smack in the proverbial middle of nowhere, has two men who have threatened to kill each other at sight. The cast here is decidedly more convincing — the worldly-wise Maggie, who owns the restaurant; Ben, a simpleton who assists Maggie; and the trigger-happy Del and Red established their characters in that short span of time.

And finally, the Gitanjali Raman-, Mathivannan- and Vivek-directed ‘The Motive'. Tommy Greer has a theory — the Greer Murder Hypothesis. He's convinced that if he were to commit a murder without a motive, he would never be caught. But, his friend Richard is unconvinced. “Nonsense,” he says, “But I'd like to help you commit a motiveless crime, and prove yourself right.” So, out comes the telephone dictionary. Cheerfully, they discuss how to go about it. “Why don't we pick someone starting with S?” he asks. “I never did like the letter S,” nods Tommy. A certain Gerome Stanton emerges the winner of the not-so-lucky draw. In a macabre scene of dark wit, Tommy commits the motiveless crime. Besides, he has left no clues, no fingerprints — nothing could go wrong, right?

Sometimes, the quiet insanity that had been the flavour of the original shows threatened to descend into that dreaded affliction of melodrama. That aside, there was enough old-worldly charm to make the plays work; and everything onstage was only black, white, or a deep, silken red. And, there persisted a deep sense of trepidation long afterwards, much like a bloodstain on a white shirt that refuses to fade.