Evaluation of a live performance: The performance I went to see was "The 39 Steps" on the 25th of March, at the Criterion Theatre in London, it's produced by Oakmont British. The original 39 steps was an action spy novel written by John Buchanan in 1915.
Then Alfred Hitchcock produced a film, then the play was written and when I first saw the play it was a bit of a shock seeing as the book and film are set as thrillers and the play is very much a comedy.The play is set in 1914 and Europe is on the brink of war. The main protagonist Richard Hannah is bored with life, until he runs into a hysterics German woman names Enable Schmidt at the theatre. Richard then takes the woman home with him and she reveals that she is tracking down a man who is taking British airplane plans out of the country, Richard then falls asleep and wakes up to find her dead then continues her plan in order to clear his name of her murder.The rest of the play is his version of events. The piece was extremely clever how they only used four actors during the entire show.
This brings me onto costumes. The costumes in this production were very bare and essential for quick changes while on stage, and this gave the play a comic feel cause they changed on the stage in front of the audience. Many times the costume was a plain suit and the actors played different characters by simplistically putting so a hat, coat or a prop.I enjoyed this because it helped me associate different characters with the little bit of costume they had.
The sound and music in The 39 Steps was used effectively to help bring action scenes to life with background news and sometimes radio broadcasts, this helped the audience to understand what is going on due to the plain props (which I will get to later) The lighting in this play was ere rarely used, the main uses where for blackouts and Just full stage lighting.The biggest exemption to this was during some action scenes which involved planes for instance would be very hard to portray with only four people, so they used shadow puppets to give the illusion that there was a lot more people in the cast and sound effects. This I thought was a very different, but clever way of expressing large scenes. Occasionally a follow spot was used to highlight some parts of the of the play for comical effect.At the beginning Richard is asked to look out the window by Enable ND when he does two actors run on stage with a lamp post and as soon as they are on the spot light is on and when they leave it's off again, they did this to give a sense of perspective from the window to the street and also to take the mica out of classic thrillers.
The set and props where very compact and were built and moved on and off by the cast because they are designed to be transferred by one person. The props where all cleverly done, for instance they made a bridge out of three ladders, a train out of four boxes and a house from Just one door.The door I thought was one of the est. props used because the cast managed to make a fairly small stage appear huge just by moving the door and pretending each time that it was a new room every time they passed through it. At one point in the play Richard and Pamela ask the Scottish landlords for a sandwich and they come back with a loaf of bread cut in two with one slice of lettuce in the middle, this was such a simple idea but made a big deal and a laugh out of it The rhythm of the production was extremely fast paced due to the size of the cast and comedy.
The costumes helped speeding up the pace with changes between harassers happening lightning fast, this was very clever because at times there were more than four characters in a scene, so the cast had a different costume by adding a small prop which would be associated with that character, for example a policeman's hat to represent a policeman and a coat half on so that the character can Just switch sides and he's another character so he could have a conversation with himself which was very funny.At first the pace was fairly slow but then as soon as the Enable Schmidt died the pace and comedy sped up dramatically and of anything got ritually faster until Richard gets to a Scottish farm house for which it slows down for a bit to only come back twice as fast paced. The symbols used in The 39 steps where very powerful and easy to spot. Stereotypical costume and props where used to symbolism the character the actor was playing, for example a farmer had a straw hat and a work coat and a paper boy had a simple flat cap.These help the audience to make mental links between props and the individual characters.
The use of the casts bodies was done very well by the actor Just wearing a big black Macintosh with he hood up to be things like styles, bushes, trees and rivers to get in the way of Richard and Pamela when they were escaping from the spies but they also managed to make it comical at the same time by grabbing hold of Pamela and holding her up.The spoken language used in the production was very varied in different scenes, the development of some of the spoken language was very good and difficult to do because the actors had to moderate their voice on stage when doing quick changes between characters, like in one part of the play when Hannah is on the train the two other characters who constantly change between a paper boy, policeman, genuineness and a train conductor, during this scene the case has a lot on their hands because they are remembering lines, changing character, changing voice and acting out the scene.The character of Richard Hannah is a very posh and well spoken man and there is a very funny scene when he makes it to Scotland and he's speaking with a local and he raises his eyebrow at the pronunciations of words and repeats them disapprovingly as a way of mocking 'simpletons'. There are parts of the play in which he struggles to understand accents of others because he's such a die hard English man.