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Theatre group offers fast-paced caper

Darien Edgeler, left, and Ivana Ho star in Nanaimo Theatre Group’s pruduction of The 39 Steps. The play premieres Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Bailey Theatre. - Rachel Stern photo
Darien Edgeler, left, and Ivana Ho star in Nanaimo Theatre Group’s pruduction of The 39 Steps. The play premieres Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. at the Bailey Theatre.
— image credit: Rachel Stern photo

A farcical spy story, a dash of love and allusions to Alfred Hitchcock films creates the basis for The 39 Steps.

The play, created by John Buchan and adapted by Patrick Barlow, is Nanaimo Theatre Group’s first production of the spring season.

“This is an homage to the fat man. It’s our own version not like the film version. It’s like The 39 Steps by Hitchcock on crack,” said Darien Edgeler, who plays 11 different characters in the production.

He said Hitchcock fans will see allusions to the director’s films throughout the production.

Co-directors Peggy Harris and Sheila Coultish saw a production of the play two years ago in New York. They both walked away from the production asking themselves how they could produce the play in Nanaimo.

“It’s really great to find a script you believe will be wonderful if you can find the right people to fit into it,” said Harris.

One of the challenges they faced was the limited space of the Bailey Theatre compared to Broadway venues in the Big Apple.

But with the help of creative crew members they made scenes come alive through other means than large-scale scenery. For example, in one scene where characters are on a train the stage only has three trunks as props and the train’s atmosphere is established using lighting and sound.

The 39 Steps is also demanding on the actors. There are about 25 roles in the play performed by five actors. Each character has a different physicality and voice so it challenges the actors. It also requires them to have speedy dressing skills as many scenes require quick-changes.

“It’s an intense play physically,” said Ivana Ho, who plays several characters in the production.

Coultish said it’s been great to see the play take shape.

“The joys are just seeing the play come to life – lifting off the page,” she said.

She said The 39 Steps is filled with comedy and the cast has been working to perfect the parody and farce embedded in the script.

“We laugh a lot at rehearsal, which is a really good sign,” said Coultish. “We hope the audience will walk out of here still laughing.”

The Nanaimo Theatre Group’s presentation of The 39 Steps runs Wednesday (Feb. 20) to March 9. The play shows Wednesday to Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are Feb. 24 and March 3 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $18 for Friday and Saturday performances, $16 for Wednesdays, Thursdays and matinees. Tickets are available by calling 250-758-7224, e-mailing tickets@nanaimotheatregroup.com or online at www.nanaimo

theatregroup.com.

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