39 problems but a play ain’t one

Rhys Bevan-John describes the zany fun of four actors playing 100 characters in The 39 Steps.

The 39 Steps
To February 15
Neptune Theatre, 1592 Argyle Street

"Kinetic" and "joy" are words Rhys Bevan-John uses a lot when he talks about the Neptune Theatre production of The 39 Steps, and that makes sense: the long-limbed, rubber-faced actor is known for his exuberant physicality on stage, and this play makes the most of it.

The 39 Steps is based on a 1915 spy novel. It's about an ordinary man on the run from both police and villains after getting mixed up in a plot involving the theft of crucial military intelligence by German anarchists. It became a 1935 thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The play transforms the movie version into a comedy by virtue of telling the same story using only four actors to portray over 100 characters—everything from children to inanimate objects. "There's a lot of joy in getting to play so many wacky characters," says Bevan-John, adding he and Christian Murray each play dozens of them. "There's a lot of physical comedy, and Christian and I are pretty kinetic on stage."

Bevan-John describes the play as an earnest re-creation of the movie plot celebrating the inherently interpretive nature of theatre. "It takes in the huge scope of the film, but it does it in a way that acknowledges that theatre is theatre. A door on wheels and a couple of tricks can set a scene—I love it when a story is told so playfully and effectively."

Bevan-John expects the joy of the cast and crew will be passed on. "We're all having a complete hoot, and when you get a show with this combination of joy, skill and talent plus a perfect script, you just know the audience is going to have fun, too."

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