“What are the 39 Steps? Answer me man, what are the 39 Steps?”

You can always tell when you’re having a good day- annoying or ridiculous things happen, and they still don’t manage to derail you. Yesterday was my third wedding anniversary- and despite the fact that we are somewhat strapped for cash at the moment, I was able to utilise some very creative accounting and make sure that George and I had a day to remember. One of the most important things I did was not tell George any of this was happening- she got a few inklings from her Mum (thanks to me not outlining what the plan for Tuesday was), but most of it ran smoothly and she didn’t have a real idea of what we were doing until we reached our destination.

Essentially, I picked her up from work, whisked her to Alton and onto a train, where we travelled to London and made our way to the Criterion Theatre for the matinee performance of the stage version of The 39 Steps – a show that essentially takes the Hitchcock film adaptation and produces a gloriously lunatic version of it with only four cast members. While there’s a certain amount of humour milked from the arch 1930s dialogue and some of the physical slapstick is a little overdone in a few moments, the majority of the show sticks amazingly closely to the original film, and gets most of its gags from the wonderfully bizarre methods used to do this kind of ‘running man’ thriller on the stage. We get cast members posing as bits of the landscape, a dizzying train sequence where two actors are playing six seperate roles depending on which hat they’re wearing at the time, and some gloriously loopy bits of shadowplay, including a North by North-West parodying sequence that comes complete with bi-plane crash! It’s the kind of theatre that I love- using very simple devices and props to create a world (particularly in the chase sequences, which are made up of clouds of smoke and characters running around waving torches) and the whole thing is tremendously inventive, while always poking fun at the sheer ridiculousness of trying to produce a film like this with four people. Tremendous fun, and leaves the admittedly entertaining but downright bloated Spamalot in the shade. If films are going to be adapted for the stage, this is the way people should be doing them…

Underground delays meant we arrived in the auditorium with only seconds to spare, but we both had a fantastic time, and our journey home seemed to be going smoothly- until we got to Waterloo, and found that a ‘suspect package’ meant the entire mainline terminal had been shut down. When you’re trying to get back to darkest Hampshire, that’s not the kind of problem that’s easy to think around. It was 5.30pm, and rush hour was starting to descend, and I will admit that I flaked out a little- but thankfully George was a lot more sensible, and got us onto a bus to Clapham Junction, which was an odd experience as I haven’t been there for almost eight years since I lived in Battersea. There, we were able to leap on a train to Woking, and were soon on our way home- where I was hoping to find my mobile phone, as I’d found it missing on the train into London, and was hoping I’d left it in my office. It wasn’t in my office, however. It wasn’t anywhere in the house. The damn thing was gone, and I didn’t know what to do. So, I called the phone, in the hope of hearing a distant ‘brrr brr’ that I could track- but instead, someone answered. After a couple of confused attempts, it turns out that it was my neighbours two doors down- it had fallen out of my pocket somewhere in the drive, and they’d found it. Thanks to the weather, it had gotten seriously rained on, but- in a wonderfully bizarre twist- we actually have a spare phone that was exactly the same model, so all I had to do was swap the Sim Cards and all was well. Breathing a sigh of relief, we collapsed onto the sofa for a Chinese meal, and four episodes of the early eighties TV adaptation of Jane Eyre (starring Timothy Dalton in full gothich brooding mode as Rochester), and spent most of the time goggling at the jaw-dropping number of bonnets on display, or making pithy comments when the moment was right.

All in all, a fine way of spending our third anniversary. And now, for the day after… I’m back doing sub-editing.

Hey ho…

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