Thursday, August 17, 2006

Edinburgh Upstaged by Kilburn

We are not in Edinburgh, we are in London. A reality obviously dismissed by the Arts & Culture journalists who continue to drown us in reviews of plays and comedy acts we stand no chance of seeing. Doing little other than leaving us feeling excommunicated from the scene that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the 4 star review of a play called Mickey Mouse is Dead at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh is of little interest to most Londoners this week.

So thank heavens, then, for The 39 Steps, which started its month long run at the bijou Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. That is, before it likely heads to the West End, if last night's ovation was anything to go by. The Tricycle has all the signs of doing for The 39 Steps ,what the Menier Chocolate Factory did for Sunday in the Park with George. And don't we like to play 'told you so'.

The 39 Steps is a stage adaptation of John Buchan's 1915 classic novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, turned film classic by Hitchcock's 1935 movie of the same name, oft-regarded as one of his best. The basic premise of the story being that of an innocent man who learns too much about a dangerous spy ring and is then pursued across Scotland, before returning to London to foil the villain's dastardly plans. An obvious plot for adaptation by film producers, but less so for stage ones. And it is precisely the lunacy of trying to translate a fast moving, suspenseful chase caper to the stage that makes the Tricycle's production so ingenious.

I don't want to give away much more than the basic gist: the cast is comprised of four characters, playing between them, what the production notes suggest are 150 roles. The protagonist, Richard Hannay, is brilliantly acted by Charles Edwards who expertly maintains a stiff upper lip but who is endearingly likeable. The 'girl' is played by Catherine McCormack, who played opposite Mel Gibson in Braveheart. She is brilliant as a Felicity Shagwell meets Jessica Rabbit character transported to 30s film noir. The other two male characters are a joy as a double act and pop up wherever Hannay goes.

The 39 Steps sweeps you off your feet, and touches you down in Edinburgh, 1935. Which given Easyjet prices to the Fringe, it is as close as most of us will get to Scotland this August. The audience loved it including, I suspect, Dawn French and Lenny Henny who were sitting behind me. I would venture to put my money where my mouth is, and offer to refund anybody's ticket who doesn't come out as gushingly enthusiastic. But, seats start at £8.50 so I wouldn't insult you. That is, before the likely transfer to the West End, when you will have to add a four before the eight.

And for those put off by a journey to Kilburn. 3 words: Get over it. Kilburn is on the favoured Jubilee Line, and so near the centre, it won't be long before estate agents are calling it North Marylebone.

The Tricycle also boasts a brilliant art gallery come cafe, with a lovely French cook who prepares fresh bits for a light snack. And there is a theatre bar that is open for pre and post show drinks as well as a nip during the interval.

Book Now: or 0 207 328 1000. The show runs to 9th September, but last night was a sell out, and that is before reviews in the broadsheets, the Evening Standard, or Time Out. Oh, and Zadie Smith and her writer husband Nick Laird live down the street from the theatre. So bring along a copy of On Beauty, because you may just get an Autograph Man.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great stuff. This blog is a gem.I must see this show now. Thanks CS

12:29 pm  
Blogger Shep said...

When I did Edinburgh 10-odd years ago it was a nightmare. The pain of performing there must be gazillionfold for the poor people who watch any of it. I naively thought that theatre was the new rock 'n' roll. It wasn't as it turned out, but we did get groupies who came to every show, so it wasn't all bad, eh? I think it's hugely over-hyped and as far as I'm told acts do it not for the sheer love of the festival, but more so that they can get noticed enough to...not do the festival anymore.

(in an autobiographical aside, my annual childhood holidays were spent in a house in Broadstairs called St. Cuby, where John Buchan wrote The 39 Steps. Outside the house, right by the cliff edge is a gate that leads to 39 stone steps - if I'm honest I think there's actually more steps - down to the beach. You can still go down them today I think.)

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Claire said...

I love the Tricycle. Have not been in a few years but their shows are always great. I had forgot about it to be honest. Theatre is so uplifting when its good.

1:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the film can't quite picture it on stage with all the characters. Shep - thanks for trivia about the steps.

1:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loving the blogs. Keep writing

5:55 pm  
Anonymous Bill said...

Hitchcock on stage. Thats new to me. Cool concept. I read The 39 Steps years ago. Good value as well rare to see a show for around a tenner these days

6:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

baby baby come and find me -)

7:11 pm  
Anonymous Jan said...

great blog. unique and fun. a new fan i will be back. love theatre reviews

7:28 pm  
Blogger jellybean said...

hi, I've linked to your review from this entry at my blog
Charles Edwards - Theatre - The 39 Steps - Reviews

4:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome show. Went Friday evening.
THANK YOU city slicker

12:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great show. Book now. Went last night and so much better than Avenue Q. Thsi will definitely go to the West End.

11:11 am  
Blogger AnnaWaits said...

Just been down to see Sunday In the Park with George, and it seems another trip is necessary (oh dear, what a shame :)). Great blog, and thanks for stopping by mine.

11:22 am  
Anonymous Robin said...

I went last night. THANK YOU City Slicker. Absolutely top show. Would recommend to anybody and there is a fab curry house 100m out of theatre on right. Book now. As City Slicker says it was a packed house. I want to watch the movie now!

9:24 am  

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