Director Dean Paul Gibson has a week to "put it all back together again" - a touring version of The 39 Steps, a zany spoof first staged by the Arts Club at its Stanley theatre in the fall of 2010 - and things are going well, apparently.
"We're rehearsing today," he said in a lunchtime phone interview last Thursday (Feb. 21). "It's always a good sign for me when the company involved in it - the stage managers and crew and everyone - is laughing. That makes me feel good because I know we're doing something right, and this show is all about having a good, old-fashioned hoot."
Patrick Barlow's comedic adaptation reenacts Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 mystery film nearly verbatim, but with just four actors. The current Arts Club on Tour production welcomes Jay Hindle to the cast (as lead character Richard Hannay, replacing Martin Happer from the 2010 run in Vancouver), and returning players Diana Coatsworth, Shawn Macdonald and David Marr.
Gibson loves the stylish, slightly Pythonesque comedy of The 39 Steps, and jumped on the chance to direct the Arts Club production. The show runs at Surrey Arts Centre from Tuesday, Feb. 26 to Saturday, March 9, with other tour stops in Burnaby, Mission, North Van, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge and Coquitlam.
"I'd seen a version of it in New York (prior to 2010), and we were all quite inspired by the wonderful sort of theatricality of it all, and the sort of poor-man's-theatre nature of the piece," Gibson said. "It's fun to put my own signature on it - I'm not reinventing the wheel here, Tom. Like with all great shows that have universal appeal, like Noises Off and others in the comedic world, that if you follow it (the formula), you'll be successful, but if you ignore what people have taken great time and care to create, you're in peril of f***ing up something that is already a recipe for success. So although I'm a chef unto my own, I'm allowed to take some liberties and add some of my own spices, and I don't mind doing that. Also a big part of that is casting it well, getting the right people and keeping it going."
Gibson, a one-time White Rocker and Earl Marriott Secondary grad, has become a go-to director and actor in Vancouver and beyond, most frequently with the Bard on the Beach festival at Vanier Park.
"I've been very fortunate," he said. "Theatre has become my life, thankfully. You know, there are days when I'd rather be a barrister or something like that, but it's been wonderful."
This summer, he won't be hands-on with any Bard on the Beach production in Vancouver.
"This year is a bit different for me, because I'll just be working in my role as associate artistic director, so working with Christopher (Gaze) on season planning and whatnot and talking about future seasons," Gibson said. "I'll be back directing in 2014 during Bard's 25th anniversary season. I'm taking a happy summer out of acting and directing at Bard, so I'll be able to adjudicate theatre festivals and do some other things and spend some time in London with my partner. I like to shake it up, and it's good for the health of the company to get some new ideas, too, so it's refreshing all around."
Tickets for the run of The 39 Steps at Surrey Arts Centre range from $15 to $43, via 604-501-5566 and tickets.surrey.ca. For the 4 p.m. performance on March 9, patrons who are blind or partially sighted can enjoy VocalEye audio description of the show.
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