The suave hero is racing over moors, pursued by a small bi-plane, while on a hill to the side, a familiar figure watches.
It is Alfred Hitchcock, who regularly shows up in his mystery thrillers. Except this isn’t cinema, it’s theatre, and old Alfie is a shadow puppet. It’s a scene from the enormously clever production of Patrick Barlow’s parody of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps at Camino Real Playhouse. You’ve never seen anything like it.
Parody has been around for a long time. Heck, Aristotle even had something to say about it. According to him, Hegemon of Thasos was the inventor of a kind of parody; by slightly altering the wording in well-known poems he transformed the sublime into the ridiculous.
A parody is a text that imitates another work or genre for the sake of a good, hearty laugh. Don’t confuse this with satire, which also gets a laugh but isn’t in it just for the chuckles. Parodies aren’t meant to incite some major social change, and they’re not even meant to knock the original work down a notch. Really it’s really all about the giggles.
Hitchcock aficionados will be happy to learn that in The 39 Steps all the original scenes are there (albeit somewhat altered!) and that some of the text comes right out of the original film.
Here is some fun 39 Steps trivia:
- At the old Wembley Stadium, 39 steps needed to be climbed to reach the Royal Box and collect a winner’s trophy
- St David’s Cathedral in West Wales had 39 steps
- There are 39 books in the Old Testament
- The 39 Steps was Hitchcock’s first film with a classic theme that he modelled repeatedly for the remainder of his career
- The atomic number 39 is a silvery metallic element that is common in rare-earth minerals; used in magnesium and aluminium alloys - yttrium, Y
- The Code 39 is a bar code broadly used in non-retail applications. It is a bar code that allows for alpha and numeric encodes, as well as some symbols