Aug 17, 2015 Theatre
Not Psycho puts the iconography from the mother of all slasher films through a post-modern blender and the result is a Hitchcockian fever dream. Bates-figure Matthew (a seriously repressed Edwin Beats) runs a video shop with his mother (Donagh Rees), but she has not been seen for some time.
Benjamin Henson takes us on a time warp to 1997 Manchester, which allows him to exploit the VHS relic as part of the production’s aesthetic. It feels too that we’ve been transported to somewhere like London’s Royal Court – this is a high-concept risk-taker all too foreign on our stage.
Not Psycho questions desensitisation from a life of consuming horror films. There’s also an urgent question about how to make a theatre audience feel some horror when you can’t do clever Hitchcock editing. There are copious knives and a blocked drain centre-stage that slowly fills with blood, but Henson goes largely for make believe, putting everything at a theatrical remove.
The Psycho call-backs are good fun, particularly when Matthew imagines himself on set helping Janet Leigh film the driving sequence. The mother character however feels too much like a token effort, there because of Psycho, not yet justified in this narrative. Matthew is abused and taunted by a variety of figures conjured by his mind, but his passivity means there is a lack of action. We are stuck in a loop as he tries to remember what he has done. Not Psycho is so focused on getting there that it forgets that the why is a far more interesting reveal. Gutsy performances and high production values, definitely one for the cinephiles.