As I was travelling to the Criterion Theatre in London to see The 39 Steps, I got word that the show had posted notices and is now due to close on September 5th. Having entertained audiences in the West End for 9yrs and having won a multitude of awards I was thrilled that I hadn’t missed a chance to see it.
John Buchan’s book about a man who accidentally stumbles across a spy ring and is subsequently framed for murder has been adapted for film on three occasions, the most famous of which is the 1935 Hitchcock version. If you are expecting something along the same lines of the films however you are in for a big surprise.
Adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow this version of The 39 Steps is a tongue in cheek, very funny, remarkable production using only four actors playing multiple roles. Daniel Llewelyn-Williams played the central character Richard Hannay who travels to Scotland and back pursued by dastardly villains to clear his name and stop vital secrets being taken out of the country.
Whilst Llewelyn-Williams plays the devilishly handsome, stiff upper-lipped hero as his only character, the other actors Kelly Hotten, Mike Goodenough and Darryl Clark hilariously play all other 138 roles (no I didn’t count them – that’s what it says on the website), as well as gorse bushes, streams and fences.
Peter McIntosh’s stage design is simple and props are used to great effect, free standing doors, window frames and lampposts are shunted on and off stage to the audience’s delight. With marvellous direction from Maria Aiken aided by atmospheric music and corny special effects the cast are able to create some fantastic theatrical moments such as a chase on the roof of a train, a fall from the Forth Bridge and an escape across the wild highlands of Scotland.
I can see why The 39 Steps has been so successful, it is fast paced and exciting and the cast with their boundless energy and comedic timing are a joy to watch. Delivering drama, suspense, comedy, physical theatre and puppetry it is an ingenious piece of theatre and highly entertaining and as a result as been well supported by drama students over the years.
I hope that now the show is closing a nationwide tour will be on the cards…fingers crossed. If you can get to see The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre before the 5th of September I would heartily recommend it – it’s a spiffing good night out.
Review By Sammi O’Neill
Piccadilly Circus, London, SW1Y 4XA
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 8.00pm
Matinees: Wednesday 3.00pm and Saturday 4.00pm
Tuesday 23rd June 2015