Mad cat chases and murder mysteries

Kyle Stanford in character, on board HMS M33

It’s important to never forget the past

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Train rides, aeroplane crashes and ‘mad cat English’ chases are just some of the scenes you can expect at Titchfield Festival Theatre from Monday to Friday, as they perform a Hitchcock classic, The 39 Steps.

So its surprising to learn that the whole performance has only four actors, who play over 150 separate roles.

Julian Sluggett, who is directing the comedy and has worked with the theatre for the past three years, said: ‘It’s very simple. As long as the actors believe in it, the audience will do too. It really moves around and it’s very funny.’

The play is adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchman, and most famously the 1935 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

It follows the story of Hannay (played by Rick Reid), a man who gets caught up in cross fire gunshots at a theatre, and ends up taking a woman back to his flat, who is a spy. She is killed and it is left up to Hannay to solve the murder mystery of a lifetime.

Julian said: ‘There is a huge dastardly plot and air defence secrets and right at the beginning there is his friend who gets murdered in his flat.

‘Then its just a mad cat chase and they end up on the flying Scotsman to Edingborough and there’s all these disguises. I couldn’t describe them all. Its very funny and very English.’

The real challenge is how to create a colourful comedy that flys all over the country, with only four actors on stage. However, the style is typical of the comedys portrayal in the past.

Julian said: ‘They are doing very well indeed, and actually comedy is a serious business. But we are always laughing in rehersals.

‘It helps to balance out the whole season that we are doing. It’s a summery comedy and Much Ado About Nothing (that the company is performing from the 13 to the 23 July) is a comedy as well, but this is a lot lighter.

‘We look carefully how to balance a programme of shows throughout a year. It’s important to balance between performances like tragedys and comedys.’

The company are currently rehearsing three days a week, and plans are on track for the start of the show.

Julian added: ‘There is a great big chase across the Forth Rail bridge and a aeroplane crashes across the moore. It’s just a really good story. A mad cat English performance.’

Tickets: Titchfield Festival Theatre, Fareham, (01329) 556156 or titchfieldfestivaltheatre.com.

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