Newest Review: ... running at London's Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus for many years now. I have seen it three times now and still enjoy it to this d... more
39 Steps to a great comedy!!
The 39 Steps
Member Name: Homer213
The 39 Steps
Advantages: Very funny, orginal, unusual, surprisingly different
Disadvantages: Theatre is a little small and not much leg room!!
A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend decided to surprise me with tickets to the theatre. He didn't say which show or play it was going to be so I reeled off every show I wanted to see that was playing in London to see if I could work out what we were going to see.
But my boyfriend maintained it was to be a surprise so no matter how hard I guessed he was not telling me. However he did admit it was not Dirty Dancing as he thought I'd already seen it! Wrong! But that's now on the list for next time!
So Friday night came and we had a pre theatre dinner in Soho before heading to the theatre for the 8pm show. On route to the Criterion Theatre I was told we were going to see "The 39 Steps", which I must admit drew a complete blank from me. My boyfriend went on to explain it was a comedy based on Alfred Hitchcock's classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps. Sounded interesting I thought. Not quite the big name musical I was expecting, but I'm open to new experiences so was quite happy to go and see it.
Where is it showing?
The 39 Steps is showing at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus in London. The Criterion Theatre has been open to audiences since 1874, with its first show being An American Lady. It's had a chequered history. It's been deemed unsafe and closed (1882 and again in 1989), renovated and refurbished and reopened (1884 and in 1992). Used a BBC studio during World War II, and been part of London's theatre history since it opened.
The Criterion Theatre seats circa 580, so a relatively small theatre, and is unusual in its style as the majority of the theatre is underground. So rather than going up to the dress circle you go down from the lobby.
There are 3 seating areas; Stalls (which is on the lowest level and has the most seats); Dress Circle (which is immediately above the Stalls, has less seats and you generally look slightly down on the stage) and finally the Upper Circle (which has a few seats and many seats have restricted views).
We had seats 16 and 17 in row C in the Dress Circle. Unfortunately we also had a pole in between us, which wasn't ideal and is not on the seating plans. Whilst the view of the stage was good, it was interrupted when the people in the row in front sat down and their heads slightly obscured our view. I think this is because the rows aren't raised enough in comparison to the rows in front, which is a little disappointing. My obscured view during the first half was annoying enough that during intermission we moved to the seats in the front row of the dress circle which no one was sitting in. Great view for the second half!! Also a word of warning to anyone who is tall. I'm only 5'4" and I found the legroom in this theatre tight!!
What is The 39 Steps about?
The show is actually an adaption of the novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by British author John Buchan, but heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film. It was made in to a comedy in 2006 by Patrick Barlow.
The Plot (I promise not to give too much away)
Set in the early 1900's the main character is Richard Hannay. The story is about the people Richard meet, his involvement in a murder, his paranoia that he is being followed by spies and is involved in a spy network. The play travels from London to Edinburgh and back to London.
In this version there are only 4 cast members, who play 139 roles!
John Hopkins who plays Richard Hannay and is present in nearly every scene.
Natalie Walter who plays all the female characters in the play
Stephen Crithclow and Stephen Ventura who play all the other characters.
What makes it a comedy?
What makes this play a comedy is largely due to the fact that the cast play so many different characters! There is a train scene where the Richard Hannay is sitting in train coach with 2 other passengers (played by Stephen Crithclow and Stephen Ventura). Stephen Crithclow and Stephen Ventura change from being passengers to train guards to news paper boys, all by clever positioning on stage, voice changes and minor costume alterations such as changing hats.
It's hard to visualise, but it certainly works and is really funny. They use this style throughout the play which makes it unpredictable and entertaining. Credit must also go to the writer who has written some hilarious lines which are executed brilliantly by a wonderful cast.
=== Ticket Prices ===
Full price tickets are:
Stalls £57.00, £44.50, £28.50
Dress Circle £57.00, £28.50
Upper Circle £44.50 £32.00, £16.00
The recommended ticket seller is Ticketmaster but there are many others also selling tickets. The recommended prices are quite expensive so I suggest you shop around for some better prices. Sellers such as Tkts have tickets on sale for tonight's show for £25.50 (instead of £45 at the theatre)
=== Running Time ===
2 hours including a 15 min intermission
=== Show Times ===
Monday to Saturday at 8pm
There are also matinees on Tuesdays at 3pm and on Saturdays at 4pm
=== Theatre address ===
2 Jermyn Street
London SW1Y 4XA
Closest tube station is Piccadilly Circus
=== Showing till ===
It's showing in London until February 2010 at Criterion Theatre, but it will be also showing at the Liverpool Playhouse from 3 December 2009 till 16 January 2010
Overall - My thoughts
Overall I was pleasantly surprised. It is a very funny comedy - old school style comedy - witty, clever and creative. They don't attempt to make the audience laugh with cheap or crude jokes. The plot is easy to follow and although it's set in the early 1900's it's still easy to understand and I was pleased that you didn't have to know English war history or Hitchcock to understand this play.
I don't think it would be the best play to take children to. There is quite a lot to follow and sometime the humour is quite subtle. But I think teenagers would quite enjoy it. My parents are visiting later this year so I think I will take them to see this, and I'm more than happy to see it again.
Summary: It caught me by surprise, but it is well worth seeing. Highly recommended!!!
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