The Maltings Theatre back with a bang with The 39 Steps
- Credit: Archant
The Maltings Theatre opened its doors to a seated audience for the first time in 200 days last night, with a performance of The 39 Steps.
Directed by Adam Nichols, the incredibly quick-witted show was performed to an auditorium of 60 attendees, with a cast of four actors playing the production’s 40 roles.
“When we decided to bring it back, it was partly symmetrical, I suppose; it was nice to open with what was on when we closed the theatre.
“It definitely looks and feels quite different to how it did six months ago,” Adam said.
Cleverly incorporating period and pandemic-based humour, the show’s comedy is a tonic in these uncertain times.
“I think that we’re very conscious of not doing anything that was too close to the bone, but you can’t not acknowledge it.
“The audience are sitting in an auditorium that looks and feels very different to how it normally would.”
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The safety of both the St Albans audience and cast were paramount from start to finish, with physical humour from the original show remedied by the comedic applications of hand sanitiser mid-scene, as well as a mannequin being substituted in during kissing scenes.
Adam continued to say that reworking scenes so they still made sense was a key part of the challenge, but the unconventional nature of the play allowed for creative remedies to pandemic-based problems.
“As long as you can create a safe environment, hopefully people will keep coming back.”
A venue that usually holds a capacity of 120 people, only half the seats currently remain for The Maltings’ productions.
“It’s a delicate balance. You still want it to feel like you’re part of the communal experience.
“Even if you’re meeting all the social distancing requirements, which we are, there’s also something about how people feel in a confined space – you don’t want people to be in there any constantly feel like they’re at risk because there’s so many people packed into a relatively small space.
“We have created a safe environment. That’s a barrier for a lot of people. We’re primarily concerned with everyone’s safety in the building, and we have created a safe environment for people to feel confident and comfortable about coming.”
The 39 Steps runs until October 10, with performances of Shakespeare’s Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor also part of the 2020 programme.