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The 39 Steps Criterion Theatre Review July 2011

We went along to Piccadilly Circus last night to see The 39 Steps at The Criterion Theatre.The 39 Steps is broadly based on the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock, which was inspired  by the 1915 novel by John Buchan.

From an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, The 39 Steps has been adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow. The 39 Steps has previously won Best New Comedy, Laurence Olivier Award in 2007 and two Tony Awards in 2008.

“This blissfully funny show follows the incredible adventures of our handsome The 39 Stepshero Richard Hannay, complete with stiff-upper-lip, British gung-ho and pencil moustache as he encounters dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and, of course, devastatingly beautiful women.”

I recently watched the 1935 film (again) starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, and it really is a classic Hitchcock film. This film on which the play is based is primarily a dramatic thriller, with a few light-hearted moments. It is fair to say that the stage play is a comedy but with tongue in cheek dramatic and thrilling moments. It is quite British in its humour.

Sitting down before the opening curtain it was apparent that the age range in the audience was from about eleven to ‘elderly’, with the majority in the 30 – 50 range. It is fair to say that there is humour for everyone!

The storyline moves along at a fair pace with most (if not all) of the iconic scenes from the film. If you have watched the film I think it adds a ‘little something’ to the enjoyment, although it certainly isn’t essential.

The hero Richard Hannay was played by Rufus Wright, and he was brilliant. He captured the essence of Hannay as played by Robert Donat, and gave a superb performance. I felt that I was truly on the journey with him and enjoying every moment of it.

The rest of the 139 characters (are there really that many?) were played by three actors: Laura Rogers, Sean Kearns and James Hurn. You really do have to see it to believe that three actors can play so many roles and for it to be such a resounding success.

I really liked the performance(s) by Laura Rogers, especially as Pamela, with the interaction between her and Hannay being superb. Having said that her roles as Annabella and Margaret were great too.

Sean Kearns and James Hurn played the rest of the numerous characters and what a fabulous job they did as well. With countless character and costume changes to encounter along their journey they achieved it with considerable style. Breathtaking and tremendous fun!

The 39 Steps Criterion Theatre

There are numerous scenes that spring to mind when thinking of a favourite. I won’t spoil any of the surprises by announcing any of them! If you want a fun time then go and see The 39 Steps and I guarantee that you will enjoy yourself.

Good ‘old-fashioned’ British humour with some outstanding acting from an award winning comedy!

Review by Neil who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre

Book The 39 Steps Tickets

Criterion Theatre
Piccadilly Circus

Page updated 18th October 2014