John Gulliver: An unusual film premiere in Willoughby Road

Kirstin Vallance Goode unveils 'The Riddle' with some familiar cast members

Tuesday, 3rd May — By John Gulliver

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The cast of The Riddle

IS Hampstead’s long-lost Bohemian spirit making a comeback post-lockdown? An unusual film premiere took place in Willoughby Road on Friday with friends, family and neighbours of surrealist artist Kirstin Vallance Goode.

The Riddle, her first professionally produced short, features a cast from the Cumberland Lawn Tennis Club and extras hand-picked from the NW3 neighbourhood.

It was shot in the Hampstead Community Centre and the Hampstead Emporium, despite the fact the story takes place in a surreal 1970s Soviet environment.

“Without sounding too much like a local councillor, it was a community project through and through,” Ms Goode told me this week. “The story is a beast in itself. The inspiration is taken from Delicatessen – and there’s dark humour.”

Kirstin Vallance Goode

Ms Goode said she had left behind “a corporate career in Europe” to return to Hampstead during lockdown.

She had been researching what she described as an “hour-and-a-half Anna Karenina feature” script that has been cut back to the concise 11 minutes shown on Friday. The story pits a young lover who wants to marry his girlfriend against her father, a doctor, who says no.

The unhinged GP enjoys drawing out the agony with a series of obstacles. He has a side business in butchery.

There are times when this newspaper feels like a weekly periodical of magic realism. But there are some audiences who need a bit more to decouple fully from the real world.

Ms Goode said: “Why wouldn’t you want to escape today? Why not step out off the street to see more of what you’ve just come from? I have no interest in making a world that is contemporary. I love catapulting people into a dreamy experience of colour and music.”

The film has some surreal moments


A big fan of Russian history, Ms Goode has kitted out the GP surgery with portraits of Marx, Lenin and Stalin hanging on the walls.

“The doctor is a Trotskyite,” she said. “Trotsky was an intellectual who went up against Stalin. He was an idealist. He believed in communism. Stalin just used it to further his agenda. I find Trotsky quite likeable, with his little glasses. But he is the baddie in the film.”

She had researched the Fourth International, a revolutionary socialist organisation established in France after Trotsky’s exile from Russia.

“It was an attempt to build communism outside the Soviet Union. In the film, the portraits, the Soviet colours – it’s all about the whole power struggle that is going on with the father and the suitor. There is a huge power dynamic in the doctor’s surgery,” she says.

Filming takes place in Hampstead

The GP’s waiting room is a sterile environment where patients sit sneezing and praying for their turn. Numbers are called at random in a lottery that readers may feel familiar with.

“Although in the film it’s a different world and surreal with characters with turkeys on their heads and so forth, there are morals in it for today,” Ms Goode explains. “We are living in a very unequal place.”

Ms Goode has summer plans for performances at the La Cage Imaginaire and Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead and she is working on a “summer thriller piece” comparing Kardashians with the world of post-feminist housewife, in dance format.

The Riddle is available to watch at

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