It’s a lot of ask of any actor – playing more than one character during an act. But in the case of ’The 39 Steps’, a comic take on Alfred Hitchcock’s famous spy flick, things get a bit more demanding.
Five actors dive into costumes and accents, recreating scenes that are scattered around city, countryside – and modes of transit. All the while using nothing more than eight cardboard boxes, a wardrobe full of outfits and props that promise a transport in time, all the way to the 1930s.
The play, being held at The Junction from May 20 to 22, calls on all who like a good laugh to take a seat.
This production takes its comedic cue from Patrick Barlow’s 2005 work. In it, a civilian called Richard Hannay finds himself embroiled in a cat-and-mouse game with a spy ring when he unwittingly brings an agent home and she’s killed.
Gautam Goenka, director and producer of the play and co-founder of The Junction, says: “This is funny and perfect for the entire family.”
He should know; he worked on the same script a decade ago. “I actually had about 10 years ago put up this play in Dubai and since then, a lot of people have said, ‘It’s a great play, bring it back’. So I’ve been meaning to get it back but was just waiting for the right talent; this requires some real tough acting chops. They need to be able to do accents, they need to be able to do different characters, create different settings,” he explains.
The toughest part of the project was trying to do this complex play in a minimalistic manner, he adds. “How do we take a couple of cardboard boxes and use it for the entire play? Getting that period costume and props – because it’s set in 1930s. Getting our accents right for each of the actors … that took a while,” he admits.
But these things were also part of the appeal. “So it was a play I thought would challenge me as a director, and would challenge the actors as well. We began work about four months ago,” he says.
Smooshed together for a long hours, even in a few short months, a common goal is bound to unite. And so it was on ‘The 39 Steps’ set. “I think the camaraderie and friendships made along the way [are the best part of the production]; it’s a small team of about nine people; five are actors and the rest are the production crew. We’ve got some fairly young ones on our production, you know, we’ve got someone as young as eight. These are fairly new actors. Some of them are new to the Dubai stage even though they are experienced actors. We had a lot of fun,” he says.
Here’s hoping that shared sense of joy translates into hilarious on-stage antics. Curtains go up tomorrow at 7.30pm – be there, for a good laugh.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to see ’The 39 Steps’ start at Dh80.