The 39 Steps: development of pace and rhythm

The 39 Steps: development of pace and rhythm

Understanding the Pace and Rhythm in “The 39 Steps”

Play Overview and General Pace

  • “The 39 Steps” is an adaption of John Buchan’s classic novel, transformed into a fast-paced, comedic theatrical piece. The speed and rhythm of the play are crucial elements that add excitement, thrill, and comic relief to the narrative.
  • The play starts at a medium pace, setting the scene and introducing the characters. However, it quickly accelerates as Richard Hannay finds himself in intense, dangerous situations.

Contributors to Pace and Rhythm

  • Frantic chases, narrow escapes, and sudden shifts of location contribute to the fluctuating rhythm and quickened pace of the play, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.
  • The dialogue also plays a significant role in pacing. Quick, witty exchanges often quicken the pace while more meaningful, reflective moments slow it down.

Performance Techniques Impacting Pace

  • The use of multi-rolling and rapid costume changes add another level of pace - not just in the actions of the characters on stage but also for the audience, who have to keep track of the fast-changing identities and settings.
  • Music and sound effects are significant tools in dictating the pace and rhythm. Suspenseful music aids in accelerating the pace and rhythm during chase scenes, while more calming tunes can slow it down during quieter moments.

Set and Lighting Influence on Pace

  • Lighting and set changes can also act as pace changers. Bright, fast-changing lights usually indicate a fast pace, while dimmer, steadier lights could be used for slower scenes.

Physical Theatre and Moments of Pause

  • Moments of physical theatre and choreographed movement also contribute to the rhythm of the play, often speeding up the action and increasing the energy.
  • Despite the generally fast pacing, the play does include ‘breathing moments’ where the action slows down, giving the audience time to absorb the plot developments and keeping them emotionally engaged.

Unique Rhythm of “The 39 Steps”

  • In an effective performance of “The 39 Steps”, the pace and rhythm will feel like a thrilling roller coaster ride, alternating between high-energy moments of action, tension, and comedy, and more restful periods of pause and reflection.