Sunday, October 19, 2008

The 39 Steps

On Friday night, I ventured into the Lyric Theatre at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to see Maria Aitken’s production of "The 39 Steps". As I was walking into the venue, I realised how long it had been since I’d last attended a theatre production – my last outing in memory was going to see Sir Ian McKellen play King Lear in Wellington more than a year ago. It's not that I don't like going to the theatre, quite the opposite. Rather, when it comes to making a decision about how to spend my free time, theatre suffers from a serious image problem.

Faced the prospect of booking tickets for the theatre, my immediate assumption is that it will be a dull, cerebral affair – an unfortunate result of being dragged to far too many post-modern, 'high brow' productions in my youth. My preconceptions are not helped by theatre reviewers, who typically start their reviews with some sort of esoteric comment about the director and his/her use of "human props" or by commenting that the play "transforms its characters into archetypal puppets of destiny". Yawn … theatre reviewers need to take a leaf out of their 'low brow' movie reviewing counterpart's book: Say what you actually thought of the play in the first paragraph. I read the first paragraph of a review and if it doesn't grab my interest I move onto something else.

I've digressed. As noted above, on Friday I made my long-awaited return to the theatre, by going to see The 39 Steps. I'm pleased to say that the play was an absolute pleasure to watch, and was a much better choice for Friday night than M&Ms and a car chase movie, which was the alternative plan. The 39 Steps is light-hearted and somewhat silly, but the result is charming without being grating. The four cast members skillfully perform a vast range of characters and at times play several different people in the same scene.

The 39 Steps reminded me of how fun theatre can be. As a result, I’ve challenged myself to overcome my prejudices and go to see more live productions. Stay tuned.

(The 39 Steps)

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