He may be the all-action hero in The 39 Steps but Richard Ede reckons he’d be a rubbish spy. “I never remember things,” he said.
He does admit that the idea has its attractions. “It’s every boy’s fantasy to get caught up in this fantastic adventure story. It comes out of nowhere and he’s not prepared for it and has to think on his feet. He gets the girl and has to fight foreign agents.”
The show is a loving and funny pastiche of the Alfred Hitchcock film of the John Buchan adventure story set on the eve of the First World War. He plays Richard Hannay, who becomes involved in a spy story by accident when someone is killed in his flat. He has to uncover a plot to clear his own name over a murder charge. The cast of four play 139 characters in 100 minutes. The show has been a smash hit in the West End for six years.
Richard said he is excited about visiting Sheffield on the show’s tour as his mum comes from Rotherham, although none of his family live here now. “I’ve been looking forward to going back to my roots,” he added.
He was the understudy for the role in the West End for three months up to Christmas and had a month performing when the leading man became ill. “It was nice to be able to roadtest the part before I was in it on tour,” he said.
“I was very smug on day one of the rehearsals! It was nice finding that new group dynamic,” he added. “You have to be like a big family because it’s a pacy show.
“It’s got its own energy and dynamism to it. I’m hyperactive in my normal life and you need to be for this show. I don’t need to go to the gym!”
Richard said: “It’s a fantastic show. The thing that stands out about it sounds like a cliche but it’s got something for everyone. It’s driven by an adventure story element and there’s a romantic element if you want that.
“We are trying to recreate this Hitchcock film so lovingly on stage with four actors, which is an impossible task. The comedy arises out of that. It’s hysterical, which has fallen out of trying a little bit hard to make something perfect that’s not going to happen.
“I still enjoy doing it every night. You know you’re giving everybody a good evening. It’s fun to do and I hope it comes across.”
What does Richard think he brings to the role? “Other than the very attractive moustache!, probably they thought I could bring a certain gravitas to the role, even though it’s a comedy.
“I have to be the straight guy so it does require some of my more serious acting skills. I’ve been in the theatre for 15 years. You have to be relaxed and be the one to carry the show.”
Mind you, he can probably cope with anything as he got his break in showbusiness by being a Butlin’s Redcoat. That’s almost as tough a job as being an action hero…
The 39 Steps is at Sheffield Lyceum from April 2 to 6.