The 39 Steps (4 stars)

This article is from 2016.

The 39 Steps

Olivia Greene and Richard Ede / credit: Dan Tsantilis

Classic thriller becomes a laugh-a-minute comedy

10 years after Patrick Barlow's farcical take on The 39 Steps hit the West End, this touring production is still packing in the punters – and the laughs. Based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film (in turn loosely based on John Buchan's novel, published 20 years before that), the thrilling story of adventure and intrigue becomes a slapstick riot.

The mysterious and dashing Richard Hannay (here played by Richard Ede) becomes a smug but loveable rake, who's unwittingly embroiled in some first-class espionage. Anyone familiar with Hitcock's version will take comfort in the story's familiarity, and the production (directed by Maria Aitken) sticks pretty closely to the movie's plot.

Olivia Greene plays the show's three female characters – Annabella, who hooks Hannay into the mystery of the 39 Steps; Margaret, the crofter's wife who helps him escape from the police; and Pamela, Hannay's love interest. Together, she and Ede are a big ball of silly fun, but it's Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb, rounding out the small cast of four, who get the biggest laughs. The two play every other character, and it's their studiously shambolic double act that really makes this 39 Steps a joy.

Add to that some inventive, absurd staging – the Forth Bridge gets recreated using a few large ladders, to the amusement of tonight's Edinburgh audience – and it's clear why The 39 Steps is now a classic of modern comedy.

Reviewed at King's Theatre, Edinburgh.

39 Steps

John Buchan's adventurous spy novel (or Hitchcock's classic film) is adapted into this stage version by Patrick Barlow and features no more than six actors onstage at any one time.

Shinfield Players Theatre, Reading

Wed 20 Mar 2019

£3–£12 / 0118 926 7135

Thu 21 Mar 2019

£3–£12 / 0118 926 7135

Fri 22 Mar 2019

£3–£12 / 0118 926 7135

Sat 23 Mar 2019

£3–£12 / 0118 926 7135

West Meon Village Hall, Petersfield

Wed 23 Jan 2019


Thu 24 Jan 2019


Fri 25 Jan 2019


Sat 26 Jan 2019


Westovian Theatre, South Shields

Tue 9 Jul 2019

£8 / 0191 456 0980

Wed 10 Jul 2019

£9 / 0191 456 0980

Thu 11 Jul 2019

£9 / 0191 456 0980

…and 2 more dates until 13 Jul 2019

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