Double Feature follows two stories simultaneously: Vincent Price and Michael Reeves wrestle with their ways of working and own egos, as Vincent threatens to quit the filming of 'Witchfinder General'; and Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren explore their unique power dynamic through conversational subtext amid the making of 'Marnie'. While the premise of the play, to quote the text itself, "that's what it shows, not what it is". In fact, this is an exploration of what it means to create art, the journey of collaboration in doing so, and the inevitable power struggles that arise (in particular within the relationship of director vs actor - a content warning for sexual assault/coercion is worth noting, further details on the theatre website). 

John Logan's script is absolutely phenomenal - deeply realistic with some absurdist nuance, it perfectly engages and captivates the audience throughout. A work of poetry in itself, its witty beats are artfully balanced with deep emotional revelation and gorgeous parallels between the two synchronous stories without ever feeling over-laboured. The way Logan expertly articulates the complexity and potency of the artist's process and, indeed, of art itself is truly awe-inspiring. This text completely understands the points it is trying to make and never once falls short of doing so with absolute precision and satisfying resolution. 

An astounding cast, each member of this impressive quartet gives their all to getting the absolute truth from the script, an important theme of the play itself. Jonathan Hyde begins with an overly theatrical demeanour as Vincent Price, a bold and unwavering choice that pays off hugely later as he starts to shed his glossy Hollywood shell. Joanna Vanderham's Tippi Hedren is a masterclass in communicating behind the words - what she says early on is so rarely what she means, but we are never left in doubt of exactly what that is; in one particularly heartrending moment, she refuses to fear silence in an otherwise constant flow of dialogue but rather embraces it to the most mesmerising effect. Ian McNeice is a tour de force as Hitchcock, expertly portraying an iconic character with grounded realism, and beautifully capturing the casual villainy of a powerful man who has never been told no. And Rowan Polonski captures our hearts in Michael Reeves' vulnerable desperation - he delves into the darkest places of the human experience with such honesty, deftly moving through anger and pride to sheer brokenness, not an easy feat. 

These astonishing performances are underpinned by exceptional direction from Jonathan Kent. The two scenes are interlaced with such intricacy and their synchronicity is choreographed with a stunning slickness that never feels gimmicky or overused. If there is one criticism to note, it is only that we could benefit from some more weight given to the most poignant moments of the script and its subtext - occasionally, lines of great power are thrown away or not given the time they deserve to resonate with the audience in their fulness. Kent clearly understands the layers of nuance and depth of this text and has directed accordingly, combining muffled realism with stark jolts of theatrical flare. 

In fact, every aspect of this production reflects the themes and intentions of the text with incredible detail and potency. The set is stunning and 'unnecessarily' detailed, enhancing the sense of utter realism - if you haven't yet seen pasta being cooked live on stage, perhaps this is reason enough to attend! - and the lighting is beautifully subtle until it needs to do otherwise, allowing the performances to take centre stage as they must in this production. 

For a stunning and thought-provoking evening of theatre, Double Feature is not to be missed, running at Hampstead Theatre until 16th March. 

Author: Penny Lane  Photos: Manuel Harlan