First published in The Times, Friday August 12 2016
Most people with a passing interest in cinema will know the name of Jack Foley, the sound artist who pioneered many of the effects and techniques used in filmmaking post-production. This high concept fringe show offers an interactive glimpse into the secrets of the “Foley artist”, through the reminiscences of one Dusty Horne, a fictional protégée of the great man, who once counted Hitchcock, Lean and Olivier among her clientele.
As portrayed by the writer and performer Natasha Pring, Dusty is a spoilt egomaniac in mime artist blacks with a fright wig like a backcombed Russian hat. “If you haven’t heard the name Dusty Horne before you’ll have heard Dusty Horne in the movies,” she pronounces, before going on to divulge the most potent means of conjuring everything from Roman soldiers marching (jangling a bunch of keys while walking through a sandpit) to the “skull smash” (a cabbage striking a stick of celery wrapped in wet chamois leather).
Pic: Si Brandon
The show is at its most engaging in the sequences in which Dusty and her henpecked assistant run clips from movies ranging from the sublime (Hitch’s The Lady Vanishes) to the ridiculous (Roger Corman’s sci-fi movie Attack of the Crab Monsters) while recreating the sound effects live onstage. Audience members are invited to participate and there is the odd surprising revelation (who knew that rubber gloves were used to emulate flapping wings in The Birds), though the show-and-tell element does prove a little repetitive.
Pic: Si Brandon
Where the piece starts to creak like the hinges of Tippi Hedren’s attic door is Pring’s attempt to create a narrative for her protagonist. Dusty’s backstory, in which unrequited love led to the ruin of her career and a brief unhappy marriage before B-movies beckoned is so rushed and half-hearted it’s hardly worth the bother. Dusty is such a caricature of the thin-skinned diva artiste that Pring’s late attempt to invest her creation with depth is scarcely plausible. As it says on the tin, there’s a lot of sound and fury here, signifying very little.