Last night, I happened to catch a performance of The 39 Steps, playing at my local ATG venue, The Opera House, Manchester.
Having seen the show before in the West End and having REALLY enjoyed it, it was with a knowing expectation that I took my stalls seat and waited for the curtain to rise.
The touring performance itself remains great, and entertaining.
In terms of the actors, I though each was brilliant, and it was, as ever, great to set to see a more ‘of an era’ style of acting being conveyed on the stage. It genuinely would be unfair to single any of the four out!
For me, the problem was more with the atmosphere of the theatre, which, granted, the production cannot help, but never-the-less, as an audience member, the ambiance does play an integral role.
Last night was a Thursday night, and from the look of things, the upper circle was closed off, the dress didn’t have too many people up there, and the stalls were about a third full. I was in Row L and was pretty much as far back as it went. Of course, this does happen in regional theatres, not every show can be a sell out (I once sat through a second-week performance of Jerry Springer the Opera at the Opera House when there weren’t even enough people in to fill the front row!!), however, the mix of people who attended last night were also pretty infuriating – we were sat next to a coach load of people who thought it was appropriate to barge past us constantly (I was on the aisle) and during the interval were throwing ice cream tubs at each other – not how you would expect people of 60+ years to behave!! Behind us were a large school/college group, who insisted on talking throughout and using their phones. One chap even turned up wearing those oversized loose boxing shorts and a vest.
After the interval, we had to vacate our decent seats and went to sit off in one of the wings. The audience behaviour was genuinely that shocking, which, when added to a production that relies on audience reaction as much as anything else, made for an evening that I struggled to enjoy overall.
The show itself is great, and pretty uniquely styled, and so very much deserves its place on the touring circuit. I didn’t notice much difference in quality or production between that and the West End version if truthful, which is very much to the touring production’s credit.
I do note that from looking at the tour schedule, the Manchester Opera House does appear to be one of the larger houses, and so if you happen to be seeing this show elsewhere, in a more intimate venue, then I’m sure that the production will not feel quite as distant to you as it did to me.
For the uninitiated, or those living miles from London, the show is definitely worth a visit (and is fantastic), though if you’ve seen it before, perhaps in the West End at the Criterion Theatre, then I’d suggest you weigh up whether you fancy the touring production.
There seem to be a lot of discounts available for this show, and so I’d advise checking the internet/any clubs you may be a member of first before you book!
“4 Actors, 130 Characters in 100 Hilarious Minutes.”
More information, including that on ticketing and tour dates, can be found on The 39 Steps’ official website.