Saturday, July 19, 2014

The 39 Steps to Where?

Murder. Spies. Secrets. On the run. Add these all together and you get Alfred Hitchcock's movieThe 39 Steps. Hitchcock is known for making movies suspenseful and maybe even a little scary. This one is no different.

Richard Hannay gets caught up in a scheme to get top secret information into the wrong hands. Furthermore, Hannay is accused of murder and must expose the plans of a secret society to clear his name. Along the way, Hannay meets a woman who, unwillingly at first, helps him out and eventually they fall in love (the mere exposure effect anyone?)

Fast forward to 2005, and the first play, by Patrick Barlow, is shown in the Tricycle Theater. The play has the same plot, Hanney needs to clear his name and expose The 39 Steps, but it is a parody of the film instead. 

Spoiler Alert: The 39 Steps is a secret spy agency who wanted the blueprints for a silent engine. 

What does this have to do with Britain? 

Well, one has to look at the time frame. This was made right after WWI and before WWII. There was a lot of distrust and uneasiness among countries. Personally, I saw Hanney as fighting for the "good guys." He was to represent the English and a fight for freedom. The professor, Jordon, is an "evil" German who is trying to use top secret information to help his country rule the world. 

I feel that the play showed this ideology more than the movie. Again, you have to look at the time frame. If the movie openly showed these characterizations, certain countries would get upset. Therefore, censorship must be utilized. This was also a time of euphemisms and people had to really look closely to understand what the real meanings were. In the movie, I had to listen to a faint German accent of all the "bad guys." In the play, Jordan practically shouts his nationality with passion and in an attempted German accent. There is no need for guessing the implications here.  

Greg Haiste
Nick Holder
The play was also more lighthearted than the movie as well. In 2005, the movie had already been out for 70 years and an update was needed. Barlow was able to alter the script to make this a parody instead of a recreation of the film itself. This new look took off like a rocket and I can certainly see why! Most people nowadays like to be entertained. This show is very interactive with jokes that are timeless. For example, the performance only has 4 actors to play numerous parts. There is only one female cast for each love interest for Hannay. This means that one of the men must play several other women. Many in the audience, myself included, laughed when Greg Haiste would come out in a dress. Or when Nick Holder had to play a consoling officer to an upset manager (also played by Mr. Holder!) and had to keep turning as half of his wardrobe was the officer and the other was the manager to keep the conversation going with himself. 

West End Theater District

More to that, the theater has always been a part of London. It is extremely obvious once you think about Shakespeare and how big of a hit he was. Through many transformations, the West End has become the place for many plays. These plays are no longer for the wealthy, but they are for anyone and have plays of all types played here. Even looking down the streets, there were posters for several plays. 

This was made obvious by the people attending the shows. Usually, back in America, if you go to a show, it is a big deal. I would have to get dressed up and look the opposite of what I look like on a daily basis. It is viewed more of a privilege. Here in London, it is a common thing to do. Many people were dressed very casually in jeans and a T-Shirt. They still have rules like no pictures and no setting drinks on the staged (we asked!), but the atmosphere is relaxed. It is no different than seeing a movie. There were people from all over too! London is a very diverse city and you can find all different nationalities in the theater. This shows that no matter where you are from, you like to be entertained. This has not changed for more than 500 years. 

Overall, the play was funny in itself and I am glad we got to see it. Though, that's not all I got from this experience. I got to feel like I was part of the culture. Just by going to a play, I feel like I understand more about the inner workings of this place.The people like to be entertained and to get out of the heat. Today is about enjoying life and the moment instead of remembering a gloomy past. We are all moving forward to a new type of future. The 39 Steps took me to a place where I can see that we, as humans, are all the same. 

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