TSOTA was lucky enough to ask actor Richard Ede some questions about his career and his role playing hero Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps.
TSOTA: You’re part of a cast of four playing 139 roles in 100 minutes. Have you counted how many roles you play?
RE: I don’t really need to; I only play one character: Richard Hannay. He’s the hero of the piece so whilst the rest of the cast have a lot of quick changes I stay in the same outfit for the whole show. The downside to this seemingly easy share of the roles is that I’m on-stage for THE ENTIRE SHOW! I don’t get a break so I’m exhausted by the end.
TSOTA: Do you have a favourite moment in the play?
RE: Following on from the previous question, one of my favourite moments happens in Act 2, when Hannay goes to sleep! I’ve never actually dropped off during the show but I did during rehearsals when they were practicing the scene over and over again. In all seriousness, I enjoy the physicality of the role and look forward to throwing myself around every night – it certainly keeps me fit.
TSOTA: What did you first expect when you went into rehearsal? Were your expectations right or did you have to overcome different challenges?
RE: The production company (Fiery Angel) gave me a free ticket to see the show before I auditioned (it was running in the West End at the time) so I knew what was involved. I suppose the biggest challenge in a show that has been running very successfully for such a long time is bringing your own personality to a role which audiences are already familiar with. It’s a fine balance.
TSOTA: Patrick Barlow’s version of The 39 Steps premiered at West Yorkshire Playhouse in June 2005 before running in London’s West End for nine years. Now it’s coming back to Leeds. How do you feel about performing in the cast for the tenth anniversary tour?
RE: It was a great honour to be asked back to play Hannay for this tour (it’s my third outing in the tweed suit – first as an understudy in the West End, then as the lead in the 2013 tour.) The show has evolved over the years but I think the heart of it still remains true – it’s driven by a fascinating adventure story, and although there is a lot of comedy in our production, it never pokes fun at the source material. I think that’s why it’s been such an enduring hit.
TSOTA: You’ve performed in over 30 countries worldwide – how different are audience reactions?
RE: Audience reactions vary wildly from country to country and from town to town. It was fascinating to play abroad so much because we were often performing plays which British audiences are so familiar. We took Romeo and Juliet to China and often audiences would openly gasp at the ending as they had no idea it was coming! That was very refreshing for us as performers.
TSOTA: What’s next for you? Do you have any other exciting projects lined up?
RE: As a freelance actor, I’m back to auditioning for the next role. I have a fantastic agent so I’m lucky that I get quite a consistent flow of work. I’m also in the process of writing an album during this tour. It’s always nice to have a project to work on when you’re on such a long job, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with that too. There is never a dull moment on The 39 Steps!
Catch Richard in The 39 Steps at West Yorkshire Playhouse, 10th May – 14th May.