As I said in my previous post, every year my dad organises a show and meal in London around Christmas time. In 2011, my parents went to see The Ladykillers but this year the four of us went to see The 39 Steps which is being shown until the 19th October – which gives you no excuse not to see it!
I’d never heard of the title before, but my dad usually has good taste – we saw Hound of the Baskervilles at a local theatre the previous month and have seen a number of interesting productions over the years. The Criterion was a theatre I hadn’t been to before either so I didn’t know what to expect. We were sat in the stalls with ‘restricted view’ tickets and as soon as we took our places, I understood why. The Criterion is certainly unique, with Victorian architecture and the pillars despite getting in the way, add to its charm. I’ll admit if you’re short or under the age of 12 or so, you may need a booster cushion and as I looked around during the performance, a couple of people were struggling to see. We were also unfortunately positioned behind someone with an afro – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! But the seats were comfortable enough and the view wasn’t really that bad; I’d have preferred sitting in the dress circle, mind.
The 39 Steps, initially a novel by John Buchan has been adapted for television and film, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, I’ll try and sum it up. Richard Hannay (the main protagonist) is warned of a spy ring days before a murder takes places in his London flat. As an obvious suspect, he flees the scene and heads for Scotland. The 39 Steps obviously being the mystery that needed to be solved – a typical murder-mystery. This particular production had a comedy element, which of course made it more entertaining. There were only four actors, who played what could easily be 100 characters between them and Andrew Alexander who played the lead role was excellent.
There were a number of funny moments through the play and from the off, you knew it was to be a light-hearted take on the original. As Annabella Schmidt tells Hannay of the murders, two spies are outside his flat – when he looked out of his window, two characters came on stage, standing next to a land post, evidently spying. Obviously, they left the stage when he drew back the curtain and so madness ensued, with the two spies running on and off the stage, carrying a large lamp post! My favourite bit, however, was when Hannay was fleeing the police in Scotland – at one point he was hanging from the Forth Bridge (but I won’t spoil it by explaining how – let’s just say, it was very clever!). There were always surprises as well, and particularly on the on-the-run scenes, you could never predict what was going to happen and this bumped up the entertainment value.
I definitely recommend going to see The 39 Steps if anything, to see the actors constantly having to switch roles.
Prices range from £10 to £61.25.