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The 39 Steps review

Jonathan Schofield laughs himself into a coughing fit in the Opera House

Written by . Published on April 13th 2010.

The 39 Steps review

Patrick Barlow's adaptation of The 39 Steps is an absolute farce. And perfect for it.

The Opera House stage is utilised to its maximum with every visual trick in the book. There's even a moorland pursuit in the form of shadow puppets – during which Hannay gets help from an unusual quarter. The cleverness of the production comes to the fore in the train journey to Scotland which alone is worth the ticket price, twice over.

Based on John Buchan's 1915 tale of derring-do, it follows the dashing main character, Richard Hannay's attempts to clear his name and get to the bottom of a fiendish foreign plot. This follows his implication in the murder of a young woman in London.

He travels to Scotland and back, through a myriad perils, and finally into the arms of the lovely Pamela. In the process his shallow London life is exposed and he even gets to help his beloved Britain.

It's breathless stuff, beautifully timed and delivered, played for maximum fun. Hannay is complemented by an evil professor, bumbling police, villains, a fierce Presbyterian Scottish crofter, pretty young women, a milkman and a camp voice-over. It's hilarious, with laugh out-loud moments coming fast and furious.

A cast of four play all the characters.

Hannay is played by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart - who's name must have predestined him for the role – with charm, wit and, occasionally, the requisite witlessness of metropolitan drifter. Katherine Kingsley is Pamela (and all the other young women) and again carries it off with bravura and energy.

But its the myriad of roles (indeed, all of the other parts) played by Dan Starkey and Richard Braine that get the most laughs. This pair are cracking comic actors using their lines, faces and bodies to get the aisles rocking.

Maria Aitken's direction is another star. The Opera House stage is utilised to its maximum with every visual trick in the book. There's even a moorland pursuit in the form of shadow puppets – during which Hannay gets help from an unusual quarter.

The cleverness of the production comes to the fore in the train journey scenes which alone is worth the ticket price, twice over.

This hugely entertaining 39 Steps is recommended for anybody who loves comic theatre. It's also recommended for those who've fallen out of love with the stage or who've never quite got it. It's a romp through a riot of lovingly observed theatrical cliches from London fops to be-kilted Scottish country-folk: it's magic.

Rating 8/10

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HarryApril 13th 2010.

This was a right laugh. Loved it. Light hearted and light at heart.

Amelia Lockingston-BurnettApril 13th 2010.

This show looks fab! On the very far off, off chance, I don't suppose there are any free tickets remaining are there? I didn't see the email until this morning. Damned and blast!

Christine GerezdiApril 13th 2010.

Sorry I was expecting a restaurant review

AnonymousApril 13th 2010.

Did you actually go to this last night, (the review sound suspiciously like a press release) and if so, where did you sit?<br><br>
I ask because I went and was very disappointed. The Opera House is far too big a venue for this play. Sitting at the back of the Circle meant we couldn't see the actors' facial expressions and we also missed some of the dialogue, particularly when the actors used different accents.<br><br>
Most of the laugh out-loud moments were only laughed at out-loud by those in the Stalls. Presumably for the reasons already mentioned?

WTF!?April 15th 2010.

I'd like to buy tickets but clicking on the above link takes me to the Telegraph's Croatian news feed.

Care to explain/fix? Please?

Tech SupportApril 15th 2010.

Hi WTF!?, not quite sure how that happened, but we've rectified it now.

Leigh ScottApril 16th 2010.

I went to see this with my better half last night and we both really enjoyed the show.Dugald reminded me very much of a young John Cleese and the little Starky was superb reminding me of Ronnie Corbett.If you like faulty towers type comedy fast moving good quality British entertainment.Oh and what a figure Katherine Kingsley - Yes please!

Leigh ScottApril 16th 2010.

Amongst my poor sentencing I forgot to thank Mancon for the tickets which were won in the competition as a Hero. "Thanks Mancon " :@)

HappyHappyJoyJoyApril 16th 2010.

Also went to see this last night, compliments of ManCon. (many thanks)
Really enjoyed it, very fast paced and all the cast were superb. Great use of props & music!
Definitely worth a visit....there should be tickets, the stalls were only half full.
Like anonymous said, I think the opera house might be a little large for this production.

Elizabeth FitzgeraldApril 17th 2010.

Just a quick note to say thanks for the tickets. I have never won anything before - apart from a fruitcake? The cast were fantastic and surely must a lost about a stone on the tour so far as they never stopped.

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