Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 39 Steps – Review- Customs House

The 39 Steps 
Customs House
8 June 2011

I have always been a massive fan of Alfred Hitchcock, his directorial work is just breathtaking and as spooky as the films that he makes.
When Gareth Hunter (Director) asked me to review his companies’ humorous take on Hitchcock’s ‘The 39 Steps’, I didn’t think twice about it. I had often reviewed Gareth’s work behind the scenes, but first time as a director.
The 39 steps is a spy\mystery tale of the highest order, but with a huge giggle along the way. Richard Hannay - a rugged, tired of war and strife type of man -  becomes embroiled in a tangled web of lies, conspiracy and murder when he meets Anabella a foreign spy. With the security of the country under her hat, the secrets and blood begin to flow…along with the laughter levels!

Right from the start the production takes us by the throat and half throttles us into an early submission. Lots of dry ice and perfectly formed sound and lighting design propel us into Hannay’s world of confusion and anxiety. The fast paced dialogue coupled with the even faster stage changes made this perfect theatre going. With Hannay running from the law in the best part of this show many scenes were hastily set up, some truly loud out loud frivolity over took the Customs House audience as the four actors on stage took on many multi roles. One very memorable scene had Hannay in true Hitchcock styling climbing out of a train compartment fleeing from the Law; this had the audience lapping up the performance.  Some superb silhouette acting scenes  made it theatre within a theatre.
Alongside the enigmatic Jamie Brown (who was last seen at the Customs House playing South Shields hero John Simpson Kirkpatrick in the fantastic The Man and The Donkey) playing our lead hero Hannay, was Patricia Whale playing Anabella, sexy farmers wife Margaret and Pamela who at first turns Hannay into the police but becoming involved herself on the run, soon softens to his charms. Craig Richardson and Ian Reay performed many a part including one brilliant clothes swapping spot as husband\wife\policeman at the scene of the Bed and Breakfast that Hannay and Pamela escape to.
The standard of acting in The 39 Steps was of a very high calibre, all parts played with top professionalism and deftness. A brilliant casting!
The stage craft on show as I say was of a very high standard; lighting design by James Henshaw and that man again Gareth Hunter with the sound, created brilliant energy on stage that was delightful.
 Hunter has been very imaginative in this play, with such a lot going on, such a lot could have gone wrong. In my eyes it was perfect and thrilling, top class entertainment. He definitely deserved that pint afterwards!
I had never witnessed any of Hitchcock’s work in the theatre before but this was as entertaining on stage as on celluloid. I thoroughly recommend seeing this play it will not only have you laughing you socks off but also marvel at the performances.

Runs until Saturday 11 June.

Michael Hunter
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