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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.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2008 04:40 pm (UTC)
I took steer to this and he guffawed like some sort or water buffalo. It's a lot of fun - and in a lovely theatre.
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:26 am (UTC)
Not at all like the book. The play is actually based mostly on the film, but they do reinsert some passages from the novel, I think.
Apr. 8th, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
I saw this last summer with my parents. We knew that we had to see it as a family because I was obsessed with the book as a small child. Thanks to a treasured recording by Sam Waterston, I had it by heart by the time I was six or seven. The film I could sort of conceive of as its own phenomenon, but it always grated a bit because it's so different from the novel. What I loved about the play, aside from the delightful way of dealing with special effects (my favourite was the train chase!) and the skill of the actors, was the fact that it allowed me to go back and appreciate the film, on which it is based far more closely than on the book though with some restorations of dialogue from the book, in a way that I never could growing up. That was a dreadful sentence, but I'm not going to make the mental effort to fix it up.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, too!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )