Monday, 5 October 2009

The 39 Steps.

Went into town to see The 39 Steps, which we're going to talk about in London Theatre Now this week. It's fun, fast paced, self referential and very playful. Similar in fact to The Complete Works of Shakespeare, which was in residence at The Criterion prior to this show going in.

I left feeling a little un rocked by the two hours, as though I had spent a pleasant couple of hours sleeping. Nothing had moved, nothing had changed - not even my mood. For me this is factory theatre - a show that has run and run and now drifted past its sell by date.

The technique is straight forward - tell an epic story imaginatively using low tech staging and as few actors as possible to represent the multiple locations and characters. It's a great exercise in simple storytelling.

The problem is there is just better work of this kind out there both from NIE (visiting Drama St Marys on Wednesday), whose post-Brechtian clowning is faster and more inventive and from Kneehigh, whose Brief Encounter and A Matter of Life and Death interweaves the very English sense of nostalgia for the romance of classic movies with a poignant questioning of our own sense of happiness.

So what's wrong with work that is popular, safe and family focused? I just want it faster, slicker, more gags and a sense that the world of play might somehow - link to our own. In short I want it to mean something. Theatre can be many things but it always needs to be vivid. In truth I could have read a paper on Hampstead Heath, had a coffee in Soho, stayed home and facebooked, fed the birds in St James' Park or done a hundred and one things to pass a Saturday afternoon in late Autumn. Two hours in the theatre has to be worth more, doesn't it?

No comments: