Theatre Review: Psycho at the Royal Concert Hall

Wednesday 01 November 2023
reading time: min, words

Kevin Stanley went to see a beloved thriller accompanied by live orchestra. What was behind the curtain...?

Psycho Hero Image (1)

Tonight’s orchestra is made up entirely of the string section – violins, violas, cellos and double basses. They will be playing the score to the movie as it plays along on the big screen. They open the show as the opening credits roll, by playing the theme music and then the movie begins.

Hailed as one of the most influential suspense movies of its time, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho had a profound effect on how future filmmakers made movies and shaped audience expectations for generations to come. And watching it today it is no less thrilling, or chilling, than it was on its initial release.

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is having an illicit affair with a married man. She steals $40,000 from her boss and leaves town, driving across the country to meet up with him and to use the money to start a new life together. However when she visits the Bates Motel she falls prey to one of the silver screen’s most notorious psychopaths – Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). Perkins is fantastic as Bates, charming, handsome and articulate at first… and then… he transforms into the brutal murderer.


The sound of the blade hacking into flesh is gruesome 

The score is intrinsically linked to the movie, without the score composed by Bernard Herrmann the movie would not be nearly as iconic. It is the undercurrent of music that drives the movie. Naturally the shower scene, in which Janet Leigh is brutally murdered, is one of the highlights of the movie. The whole scene of Marion Crane’s death is haunting, the sound of the blade hacking into flesh is gruesome, her shrieks are bloodcurdling. At this point especially, the score is devilishly effective. The violins mimic her screams. These orchestral shrieks and jolts are matched by those of Marion as she screams for her life.

The film was cutting edge for the time, and while there have been many imitations over the years none can match the original for its perfect levels of suspense and tension. The score heavily influences the way the film feels. It is visceral. If you watch a movie without a score it feels dead and lifeless by comparison. Herrmann’s score brings the movie to life and makes it so much more impactful. Hearing it played live tonight by this talented orchestra is fantastic.

Almost 65 years after its initial release Psycho retains the ability to terrify audiences, and now with a live orchestra scoring the film, it does so in a whole new way.

Psycho, accompanied by The Limelight Orchestra, screened at the Royal Concert on 31 October 2023

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