April 7th, 2008

Fishy Circumstances

The 39 Steps

You don't need to have read the book or seen the movie to thoroughly enjoy this - I hadn't. The 39 Steps, currently playing at the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly, is a wacky remake of a Hitchcock thriller, using four actors to play 139 parts. Whoever thought of adapting it in this fashion did so in a moment of inspired genius. And with talented and versatile actors, the production works very effectively.

The plot is this: A man of leisure, in England after his adventures in Canada, finds himself exceedingly bored with life. For entertainment, he goes to the theater, where he meets a mysterious female German spy who talks him into taking her back to his apartment. She speaks of a secret which risks endangering all of Britain if not safeguarded, and a mysterious place in Scotland which is somehow tied into this. Thus it is the no-longer-bored gentleman is swept up into this plot, a warrant on his head for murder, in a madcap chase up the trainline to the Highlands and back again. There's a chase atop a moving train, a plane chase, romance, police, betrayal, and lots of humor in this action-packed production.

The actors are absolutely amazing, most of all the two actors who play most of the cast. Martyn Ellis is versatile and funny, while Simon Gregor is a polymorph, with phenomenal control over his facial expressions, which evoke the range of people he plays almost even more than do his costumes. Josefina Gabrielle - as many of the show's beautiful women - and Simon Paisley Day as the main character, the no-longer-bored Richard Hannay, complete the cast.

This funny, scintillating show showcases the acting skills of a talented group of four, balancing humor with suspense. It made me happy. I recommend it.