Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I thought there were only 4 people in this cast (the 39 Steps - Criterion Theatre)

The Girl and I celebrated World Theatre Day (didn't you know it was today?) by taking in the 39 Steps at the Criterion.

Adapting for the stage Hitchcock's 1935 film of John Buchan's novel, which famously includes a biplane crash, a chase along the roof of the Flying Scotsman and a jump from the Forth Rail Bridge, may seem a little ambitious. However, with a little inventiveness, the judicious use of a couple of ladders, and some brilliant comic timing from the cast of 4 (playing all 139 parts between them) this production pulls it off with aplomb.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the dashing Richard Hannay who takes a spy home from the theatre and wakes to find her dead and the police after him for her murder. To prove his innocence he must travel to Scotland, and find out the secret behind the mysterious professor and the 39 steps. Quite frankly the plot doesn't matter, merely providing an excuse for Charles Edwards as Hannay to send up the movie stars of the inter-war period (all dashing good looks, stiff upper lip, pencil moustache and significant pauses) and the rest of the cast to play a bewildering array of different characters, often several at a time.

This is at times a very funny production. However it falls between the two stools of trying to be both a knowing pastiche of the film and period it is ripping off and a straight physical comedy, personally I could have done with less of the knowing glances and more of the funny voices and quick costume changes. And at the end of the day the plot is too slight to allow the play to really stick in the mind.

Still there are considerably worse ways to spend £15 in the West End.


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