COMEDY Evam's “39 Steps” had the audience roaring with laughter at every step. YASHASVINI RAJESHWAR

What do you get when you put together the plot of an adventure novel, a Hitchcockian spy movie and one of the city's most enterprising theatre groups in the same room? Anyone who caught Evam's performance of “The 39 Steps” in the city over the weekend would agree that the answer reads as the byline to the play itself does – ‘Hitchock is hilarious on stage'.

The production, based on the original book by John Buchan and the eponymous signature Hitchockian movie is, as Evam puts it, a story filled with “sex appeal, fights, Scotland Yard, love, betrayal, car chases, silk stockings, French men, English women and murder”.

‘The 39 Steps' was also about rip-roaring comedy, laughing till your sides ached and gaping awestruck at the flawless coordination that was essential to performing this masterpiece as a stage play.

Excellent multitasking

The actors Navin Balachandran, Renu Abraham, T.M. Karthik and Sunil Vishnu K. between them managed to essay over a hundred roles ranging from trees, bushes and sheep to a milkman as well as a sheriff. Playing Richard Hannay, the protagonist, Balachandran was at his hilarious best, keeping the audience in splits with his timing, ease on stage and comic presence.

Abraham, the only lady in the cast, played characters ranging from secret agent Annabella Smith to a farmer's wife Margaret before closing the show as Pamela Edwards, Hannay's once nemesis then lover. Her costumes were particularly noteworthy with distinct and complete changes in each of her looks. TMK, as he is popularly known in theatre circles, was the master of multitasking. First appearing as Mr. Memory, he went on to act as a cleaner-woman, policeman, farmer, the Professor's wife Louisa, the sheriff as well as the Detective Chief Inspector while also doubling up as sheep, trees, bushes...

He was most often accompanied by Sunil Vishnu K who, once again, played roles ranging from a milkman to the big, bad Professor. Oh yes, the sheep and the trees as well. His attention to detail and his ability to bring out particular mannerisms of each of the various characters made his performance a delight to watch.

Costume designer Kritika Natarajan Dhiwahar deserves special mention for the simple yet highly effective ways of conveying the changes in character, essentially through the use of hats. Victor Paulraj and Pritham Kumar (lighting execution and design) and their team as well as S. Ved Shanker (sound design) and Ganesh Ramesh (sound execution) were as essential to the staging of the play as the actors themselves.

Debutant director Bhargav Ramakrishnan got a thunderous round of applause. The original “The 39 Steps” has seen 4000 shows in Westend and 3000 in Broadway. Evam and Radaan Mediaworks together brought it to Chennai from where it will go to Bangalore and Hyderabad before the end of the year. Thanks to the brilliant production house, direction, acting and support, Chennai-ites had a taste of Broadway in Chetput.

Yashasvini is a Std XII student at APL Global School.

Photos: K. Pichumani