Sunday, April 14, 2024

Sam Spade is on the case

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Actors Richard De Luca, left, and Tessa Ellis are among the cast starring in Howick Little Theatre’s production of The Maltese Falcon. Photo supplied AJ Johnson

Fans of stylish noir crime thrillers will be keen to let their imaginations be transported to 1940s San Francisco by the latest offering at Howick Little Theatre.

The east Auckland venue is staging the New Zealand premiere of David Jacklin’s adaptation of the classic detective story The Maltese Falcon, directed by Laurie Mills.

It centres on the work of private detective Sam Spade, who takes on a case for a secretive woman.

His partner is murdered and Spade is then accosted by a man who demands he track down the valuable falcon statuette of the title.

The most famous version of the story is the 1941 film of the same name starring actor Humphrey Bogart as Spade.

Mills says the challenge working with any beloved classic is how to make it fresh, but he enjoys bringing adaptations alive in a new way on stage.

And he highlights the advantages of staging a live version.

“There isn’t a genre you could call stage noir, not like film,” the theatre veteran says.

“You’re not making it in black and white.

“The men’s costumes of the 1940s are often very dark, but then on stage you can have the femme fatale dressed in a splash of colour.

“You can do different things on stage.”

The theatre’s audience will be led through the story by a talented case including Richard De Luca, who plays Spade, and narrator David Jacobs.

Mills says all the twists and turns, and the multiple settings, have led to stylistic opportunities.

“Part of the pleasure of the show is people moving around, changing settings and creating pictures of characters while maintaining a narrative flow.”

He believes the audience will enjoy getting swept up in the style of the play.

“With Spade and the use of a narrator, it plays out more as a narrated piece, which is very much how the genre feels and works.”

Adding another layer are the creative noir-style lighting and soundscapes created by Rory Janssen and Nicole Rolls, which work to draw the audience into the genre’s mood.

“The one aspect I’ve played up is the ability to silhouette,” Mills says.

“Characters appearing in shadows are part of the tone.”

With gangsters, a femme fatal, plot twists and an iconic fictional detective, The Maltese Falcon offers a rich experience for theatregoers locally and is likely to have them guessing from start to finish.

  • The Maltese Falcon
    Directed by Laurie Mills
    Howick Little Theatre, 1 Sir Lloyd Drive, Pakuranga
    Season: July 9-30, shows at 8pm, with 2pm matinees on July 10 and 17.

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