The 39 Steps – A comical adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock brought straight from the Broadway by Evam and precisely Bhargav Ramakrishnan. I haven’t watched the play at Broadway or anywhere else and therefore I do not have a scale to measure this against. It’s a great thing I think. So, I am going to rate this in absolute and not relativity. :)
I am going to skip the story and the introduction for now. You can read Evam’s version here. And of course, you can Google to read around. Evam’s 39 Steps is simply a comical rendition of a murder mystery spanning itself through London and parts of Scotland. It is four-people playing about 140 characters and I must say, they’ve played it with panache.
After having Annabelle Schmit (or Smith with an accent, was it?) dead in his house, Richard Hannay (rather charmingly played by Navin Balakrishnan) escapes to Scotland in search of a Professor that she had spoken about. He embarks on a train journey which is very tactfully and efficiently executed by the team. Sunil and TMK play tens of roles in this one sequence and each one of them register very well. The train journey, the seats, the conversations, the cops, the scene where they all move back and forth to signify the train coming to a stop, the moving board that says ‘Edinburgh’, the men who are selling newspapers and everything about that train journey was enjoyable to say the least, awesome to exaggerate! The sound, the light, the action and the audience laughter were all well synchronised.
There are many such instances of awesomeness in the play. The scene where Hannay is arrested and taken in a car by the Scotland Yard, the next scene where Hannay and lady (I forget her name and can’t be bothered google-ing) run away handcuffed, the Professor’s house that is big in my head because they opened so many doors before they met the Professor and the list goes on.
But there is a big problem in a major part of the play being an accent comedy. The woman who calls herself Annabelle Schmit begins the ‘accent comedy’ with her French or German or European or whatever accent it is (with the intermittent usage of ‘ze’ for ‘the’). It could be noticed without much effort that when she is delivering her lines faster than usual she forgets the ‘ze’ and so it seems rather forced on her.
A few minutes into the play, Hannay lands in Scotland, THE land of accent comedy. This is where the play seems so misplaced. I can’t recollect anything beyond ‘whose hoose (Scottish for house) is it?’ and the total miscarriage of the pronunciation of ‘r’. As a total fan of the Scottish accent, I was very disappointed. Everybody in the play is speaking a very distinct Indian accent and so the accent comedy falls flat on its face. A little more effort into understanding and internalising the accents could have done a world of good!
TMK for some weird reason ended up playing many women roles. The screeching, desperate women roles are essayed very stereotypically in the play. I should convince myself by saying, “it was much expected”.
This is not the best Evam play I’ve watched, perhaps because it hasn’t been perfected yet! If they are really looking to take it abroad, farther than Asia, they have a lot of work ahead of them. They need their share of “bad” reviews to take from!