The 39 Steps
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan
Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Ltd and Tricycle London Productions Ltd in association with the West Yorkshire Playhouse
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
What can one say about this production? Go expecting Robert Powell or even Robert Donat and you'll be disappointed, but that won't matter in the least because, from the moment the show starts to the final curtain, it is one big laugh, a delightful send-up of the Boys' Own Paper style of adventure story.
A cast of four play an amazing number of parts between them - actually two of them (Colin Mace and Alan Perrin) play most of them, with Clare Swinburne playing three. Only David Michaels, as Richard Hannay, has the one character.
The changes come fast and furiously, sometimes simply with a rapid switch of a hat, but always with appropriate accent and body language. Lecoque-trained movement director Toby Sedgwick certainly earned his money on this one!
One could get quite involved in a discussion of the post-modern deconstruction of the story which has been played around with so often over the years since it was first published in 1915 (incidentally, Barlow follows Hitchcock in relocating it to the years immediately preceding the Second World War), but what would be the point? What we are presented with here is a good, always funny and often hilarious romp, an affectionate send-up of a well-loved story (and genre), which sent the audience out of the theatre with big smiles on their faces and a palapable feeling of having had a really good night. I even saw one lady re-enacting a moment from it on the Metro platform! You can't get a better recommendation than that.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan