THEATRE Space North East are on a mission to provide theatre in unusual spaces.
But what they’ve managed to do with this production, staged in an historic East End landmark, is to provide blooming brilliant theatre in a beautiful space.
As is tradition with The 39 Steps, just four actors play all of the piece’s many colourful characters and they execute this theatrical plate-spinning masterfully.
Delicious comic-timing, clever use of props and some of the best acting I’ve seen in months blend seamlessly to create a night to remember.
From the get-go you find yourself immersed in the world of unflappably suave Richard Hannay as he unwittingly stumbles across a spy conspiracy.
Cue a madcap dash up the length of Britain encountering mad jocks, haughty heroines and dim-witted policemen along the way.
Christopher Strain and James Barton are sublime as a comedy double-act as they whip their way through a roster of personas, from a Les Dawson-esque drag hotel owner to Biggles-style pilots. Their pace is furiously fast and seriously fun.
Helen Bowie was a picture of elegance in the female roles while Pip Chamberlin pulled off the lynchpin role of Hannay with utter aplomb.
The acting from the talented troupe already had me impressed, but what proved to be the icing on the cake was the clever way in which the production used the church.
The play was staged as part of The Canny Space, a drive to use this imposing eighteenth century structure as an outlet for creativity. The props are gloriously silly and ham-fisted, which only serves to add to the humour and the action whirls all around you, breathing new life into this oft-forgotten church.
The 39 Steps will be staged tonight and tomorrow. There is no heating in the church so the audience is advised to wrap up warm.
Tickets, starting at £7, can be bought from www.ticketsource.co.uk/theatrespace or on the door.
Doors open from 6.30pm with a performance time of 7pm.