Sunday, March 19, 2017

The 39 steps to CPC comedy drama

"When I saw the play of The 39 Steps some years ago, it really got my imagination working because it is such a mad play," says Kilcullen drama teacher Evelyn O'Sullivan. Which is why, writes Brian Byrne, when she was asked to direct something different from the traditional annual musical presented by Transition Year students of Cross & Passion College, she thought of that play, based on the original book by Scottish writer and politician John Buchan.

The play had a cast of just four. Which immediately set a challenge for director and potential cast alike, as the yearly CPC musicals had always involved virtually everyone in TY. "We had to extend the concept of the original play, to involve everybody who wanted to be in, and we added in dancers as well to give more scope to as many of the pupils as we could. So our production is very different."

Evelyn, who has operated her Drama Dynamics School of Speech and Drama ever since she arrived in Kilcullen more than a decade ago, thought the story would catch the attention of the students, because 'there are so many whacky things going on that I thought it would suit kids who had never done any acting'.

"The original story about the protagonist, Richard Hannay, was actually quite risqué for the 1930s, and still is today in some respects. The guys who turned it into a comedy did it as a send-up of the characters and the era, and it is full of gags."

In fairness, when the idea was mooted last summer, many students were disappointed that it wasn't going to be a musical. Evelyn organised a series of workshops, so they could get a feel for what the play was all about. "Then we divided the production into four different elements — actors, dancers, construction, and media & catering. We asked all the young people to nominate which they'd like to be in. And from that we picked out a place for everyone."

Coincidentally, 39 students auditioned for the acting parts — "I thought that was a good omen" — from whom 20 were chosen. Only a handful had ever acted before, which was both a challenge and a joy to the director. "I have loved every minute of the experience, and I'm really going to miss it when it's over."

The production is choreographed by Anne O'Connell, and more than 100 students are involved in the show. The set was built by a team of students under the direction of Stephen Mann, and the stunning poster was designed by four of them under the direction of art teacher Emmet Dolan.

The show is on for three nights, 28, 29, 30 March 2017, at 8pm in the CPC Assembly Hall.

Tickets are €10 each, available from CPC, and they typically sell out very quickly. A €40 donation as a patron gets two tickets, a programme, tickets for the raffle, and credit on the roll of honour in thanks for supporting the show.

(This article was first published on the Kilcullen Page of the Kildare Nationalist.)