Sunday, July 20, 2014

39 Steps, a Spectacle

On July 17th, a cool Thursday evening in London, I made my way toward Criterion Theatre in Picadilly Circus accompanied by my dynamite SDSU peers and inspirational professor (and his family) to see the comedy theater adaption of Alfred Hitchcock's "39 Steps"! One by one we made our way down into the theater and to my surprise we took up the whole first and second row.

After viewing Alfred Hitchcock's film just that morning, I had thought to have fully expected the events that were about to unfold before my very eyes. Fortunately, I was wrong. The Criterion Theater's rendition of 39 Steps completely blew my mind. 

Humor was my favorite aspect of this play. The entire show was made up of different elements to achieve the most laughs in surprisingly clever ways. They had a cast of only 4 people. 3 men and 1 woman. The only person to not change characters was the lead male, known as Mr. Hanney. Every other actor played multiple roles the entire show. Although generally a small cast means limited theatrical freedom, they used it to their advantage and made fun of their obvious costume changes. The entire play was based on that fact that everyone had the knowledge that they were watching a play. The actors played characters that knew that there was an audience. They interacted with the audience when speaking "publicly" on the stage. They poked fun at wearing two costumes at once, and proceeded to turn around every time he needed to switch his character. They used a simple set to their advantage by projecting paper dolls to act as extras in the background. Two actors even sprinkled fake snow by a window when projecting the idea of it being the holidays. The actors took advantage of their space and their costumes and weren't afraid of you embracing that they are simply just telling a story on stage. 

Not only did they use their costume changes and the set design to their advantage, but they took the original storyline of Alfred Hitchcock's rendition and made every move very animated so that the audience would understand the importance of some events. Also, they made sure that even the "horrific" scenes would bring laughter by using a stuffed doll as a dead body, and having an injured woman flap around like a dead fish. 

They also added a few Hitchcock references by adding aspects of his old movies into this play. They played the Psycho music score during the show, as well as referencing Vertigo during one of the scenes. All in all, the actors brought everything to the table, enticing the whole audience for the entire duration of the show. 

The definition of a spectacle is: (noun) a visually striking performance or display. (well its one of it's definitions) I believe the rendition of 39 Steps performed at the Criterion Theater in London is just that. A spectacle. 

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