While it was expected of me to fully watch the film, The 39 Steps, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I believe it is safe to say I could have easily enjoyed the spoof adaptation of the film performed at the Critereon Theatre here in London without having seen it beforehand.
Having watched a good portion of it, however, I was easily able to recognize clearly the loudly humorous scenes the actors performed, and was also able to connect the jokes directly to many of the actual serious happenings in the film.
While the performace was nothing less of enjoyable, I have to say that the most interesting part of the experience was not the play itself, but the people attending it.
I could write my own review of the play, but I have such an urge to talk about the people I came across tonight at the Criterion...so I will do just that.
As I went to the beautifully decorated restroom at the theatre, I came across two young women and overheard their conversation as they touched up their makeup as they faced one of over-sized mirrors in the pink-themed room. Eavesdropping, it occurred to me that they had seen this play numerous times before, and that they enjoyed it greatly. Most fascinating about these girls was the light in their eyes when they talked about the comedy of the play.
I chatted with them for a few minutes about why they liked it so much, and they came up with many acceptable answers about the performance of the actors and the brilliance of the humor. They really helped me to look forward to what was in store for me. I thanked them and left to return to my seat.
I then came across a friendly usher who I started to chat with after I asked for permission to stand in front of the air conditioning vents in the back of the theatre to try and cool off before the show. Eric, a resident of London for over 9 years, turned out to be an American from Albany, New York. A strange accent came out of his mouth, prompting me to ask his story. Eric's mother is from Wales, while his father is from New York. He grew up in the states, then moved to London 9 years ago to come to school and live with his mother. His way of speaking was distinctly unique, as I would occasionally hear a British accent come out of the familiar and dominant American one. We got to talking about how he likes the play and working at the theatre...and he told me him and his two best friends go to a show at least once a week at the many theatres London has to offer. The theatre, he explained, is a part of London entertainment he loves to take part in.
After wrapping up my conversation with Eric and heading back to my seat, it occurred to me Eric talked about theatre the way some people may talk about surfing or a certain sportourists and UK theatrezt or hobby they are passionate about back at home in San Diego. I then thought back to the girls I had just encountered, and the joy in their voices, talking about the play, which I realized struck a chord with me. Their jolliness was contagious! I realized how happy I was to have just spoken with them and Eric about something they were so passionate about and enjoyed so much. I just felt so overwhelmingly happy to be in London, in the Criteron Theatre, waiting to see a goofy but promising spoof adaption of a Hitchcock classic film.
I would look around at everyone around me during the play, and could not help but notice the genuine light in everyone's eyes as they watched the entertainment. Everyone's laughter sounded like it came from deep inside...almost as if it was from a place they hadn't reached in a while.
The play was funny, yes. But the beauty of it wasn't necessarily the humor. It was the way it made the audience feel. It was almost as if stress was not a a factor in life in that theatre full of people. The laughter and enjoyment seemed therapeutic. Reflecting on it now, I can't seem to think of something back home that literally warms the hearts of such a large group of people...and I think that's the amazing part of theatre in London culture. People allow themselves to be immersed in the performance of these plays...and they seem to enjoy doing it. It might be a stretch to say that these Londoners are a happier group of people that those in California, but I can't help but think what San Diego would be like if we regularly attended something so artistic and lively. Would we appreciate things in a different light? Would we feel as happy as that entire theatre seemed to feel watching that performance?
I really don't know. But I plan on making as many theatre trips as possible back home in San Diego. I just hope the other people attending have at least a fraction of the joy the Londoners had tonight, doing something they love.
Here's a link to some interesting facts about tourists and UK theatre. Looks like I'm not the only one who is blown away by the theatre culture.