WHEN Scottish author John Buchan wrote the original adventure novel The 39 Steps in 1914, he labelled it a ‘shocker’.
By ‘shocker’, Buchan meant a personal and political adventure where the events in the story are unlikely and the reader is only just able to believe that they really happened. At the Gaiety Theatre next weekend, audience members could face a similar dilemma, for all the right reasons.
The In Yer Space production – the company behind recent performances of Grease, Bouncers, Two and the upcoming Calendar Girls – is a comedy adaptation of the classic crime thriller, starring just four actors playing a whopping 139 characters between them, and will be aired in three evening performances at the Gaiety on Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week.
In Yer Space are no strangers to tasking actors with multiple characters, as Two saw the two-strong cast tackling 14 roles.
Again under the artistic direction of Colin Snell, the cast of Carl Parker, Lisa Kreisky, Dave Dawson and Wayne Kelsall will recreate the popular West End whodunit, which was recreated for the stage by writer Peter Barlow from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film version.
Carl Parker plays the hero, Richard Hannay, complete with pencil-moustached stiff-upper-lip.
Lisa Kreisky plays the three women with whom Hannay has romantic entanglements, leaving Dave Dawson and Wayne Kelsall to play every other character in the show: heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object.
This will require frequent lightning fast changes and, occasionally, for them to play multiple characters at once.
Thus the 1935 film’s serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the stage-show script is full of allusions to (and puns on the titles of) other Alfred Hitchcock films, including Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest.
Across the Irish Sea the comedic 39 Steps picked up the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2007 and is currently enjoying its fifth year run in London’s West End attracting reviews like The Guardian’s: ‘Uproariously jolly and splendidly inventive’.
The plot, set in 1914, sees Hannay learn of a plot to steal vital British military secrets, implemented by a man with the top joint missing from one of his fingers, who is the head of an espionage organisation called the ‘39 Steps’.
A twisting tale of near misses and ingenious escapes ensues as Hannay gets closer to the truth.
The Saturday evening show will be a ‘captioned performance’, thanks to new on-stage subtitling equipment bought for Manx venues to encourage people with hearing issues back to the theatre who might otherwise have stayed away.
For Saturday only, the unit will be built in to the set, blending in at the back of the stage. A captioner will have a copy of the script, and the screen will display dialogue, songs and sound effects. See page 21 for more upcoming shows with subtitling facilities.
Anyone with tickets for Saturday evening who would rather not watch a captioned performance (the subtitles were originally mooted for a Saturday matinee slot, now not taking place), can contact the Gaiety box office about swapping for Thursday or Friday.
Each performance starts at 7.30pm, and tickets, costing £16.50, are available from the Sea Terminal Welcome Centre, the Villa Marina box office on 600555 or at www.villagaiety.comConcessions are available for students, senior sitizens and CFCs (Cared For and Carer).