The 39 Steps

Chuckles, Snickers, and Roars

39 steps.jpgAs the random calypso bands in Paddington sing: “London is the place for me.”

I love London. The sights, smells, places, people, and all those other clichés are the things that give me a soft-spot for it. So to start Easter with a last-minute-idea trip down was a real treat. The Science Museum, 221B Baker Street, Jamie Oliver’s Pop-up… and we topped it off last night in the only underground theatre in London: The Criterion Theatre in Picadilly Circus.

I have to say the theatre was pretty cool. The space was small, but was quite traditional, and there was this stained-glass bar thing which was pretty nice to have interval drinks in. Anyway, enough of the digression, let’s get onto the review:


Richard Hannay is a bored gentleman in the early 20th Century, and decides to put on a West End Show of part of his life: a comedic adaptation of John Buchan’s novel of the same name (and taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s film adaptation). After meeting a strange woman at a theatre, she explains she is being followed by spies, before dying in the night, warning Hannay that documents are being stolen from the country. Hannay, with a murder charge over his head, must find these stolen documents before they are smuggled out the country.

This was the best play I have ever seen. Hands down. It is slick, innovative and exceptionally funny.

First there’s the characters… all played by four people (apparently 139 roles played throughout). First there is Hannay’s actor, playing the “devilishly-handsome” protagonist, who strives to clear his name, in the process being pushed through many hilarious scenarios. Then there is the female role, who plays three women who add some love interest (and possibly the “straight man” role) and finally the two other actors.

These two other actors were fantastic. Their roles? Every other person (even object) in the play. From policemen to landladies, antagonists to children, heavily talented intellects to random obstacles there for the sake of making Hitchcock film puns, they do it all. Using quick-changes and smooth transitions from one scene to the next, they completely stole the stage, show, and theatre.

When the interval came, I was disappointed. Sure, I had interval drinks to enjoy, but I was kind of disappointed that the show would be over soon. I could have happily watched the show for three hours and still have been entertained. Not only were the actors out of this world, but the use of lighting and set worked as well, humourously using shadow silhouettes to depict a party, chorus-girls, airplanes, or even Hannay riding away on a deer as Hitchcock looks on, or like when Hannay is left lying on the floor at the end of the first Act, the curtains coming down over him, meaning someone has to come and drag him backstage.

There and hundreds and hundreds of moments I can pick from this show which are absurdly amusing, the melodramatic death of Annabella, Hannay escaping his flat using a milkman disguise, the landlady of the tavern that Hanany enters, being handcuffed to Margaret, the main love-interest of Hannay… but I think it’s best I just wrap up:


Brilliance. Brilliance in one-hundred minutes. I recommend this play whole-heartedly. You will not be disappointed.


The 39 Steps Quote