On Thursday, July 17th, the London Rocks crew rendezvoused outside Manson Place around 7pm before being escorted to the Criterion Theatre for the viewing of a comical adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps”. As a young woman who has seen nearly fifty plays in her life, most of which resided in larger theaters such as the Pantages Theatre or the La Jolla Playhouse, I was pleasantly surprised at the smaller size of the Criterion. Once you have entered the flashy double doors, you immediately followed a series of steep, winding steps into the main room. The theatre had a large main section, a back section, and upper-level seating enveloped by a comfortable, air-conditioned temperature. Just outside of the main room was a small hallway which included a moderately sized bar, gathering area and restrooms. The room was painted with deep reds and pinks, accented with whites and golds forming simple, Victorian-style detailing. The seats were small and highly concentrated so a large audience was accommodated easily. Audience members continued to pile into the room until just before the play was about to begin.
Curiously, there was an enormous variety of people. Back in La Jolla, you’d be lucky if you spotted someone under the age of sixty-five in attendance that wasn’t being dragged against their will. Here, there were all kinds of people congregating and socializing. To my right I saw a group of six or so young and trendy men and women, probably mid-twenties, sharing stories and drinking cocktails. To my left I saw an elderly couple in their late eighties, smiling and whispering to each other. Directly behind me was a family of four, including a young child. This diverse age group brought a huge cultural cesspool for our class to witness. As all of them were socializing, I couldn’t help but notice how seemingly quiet their voices were. For some reason, I feel like American people attend fine arts gatherings like they would a sporting event: boisterous, attention-seeking, and well lubricated with liqueur. Not to mention the fact that any variation in age is distinguished by exclusive, icily antisocial cliques. But that evening, sitting in that moment in the Criterion, I couldn’t seem to fathom how respectfully and comfortably these different age ranges coexisted. Such an ease made for a unified and engaging audience.
Where I sat, I felt like the Big Friendly Giant wedged in the center of the second row, perturbing at least one of my smaller neighbors. However, my view of the small stage was so close and clear that it gave me an intimacy with the actors that astounded me. And for that, I didn’t mind taking up a little more room. I loved every single moment of the show. It was an incredible adaptation of the film’s setting, the set design blew me away! Having viewed the film, I could trace along all of the main scene’s and their transformation to the stage. The costuming was perfectly executed, and the quirky film parallels were anything but subtle. The exaggerated dramatization of every romantic engagement or strong wind from an opened door was accompanied by perfectly timed sound effects. The audience was laughing out loud the entire show and as was I. It was exactly what I expected in terms of it being a parody, but it astounded me how clearly each of the four actors executed an abundant number of diverse characters. They had to be able to juggle three or more characters at one given time, and did an incredible job! I loved the theatre outing and am grateful we were able to attend such a established event.