Sunday, 12 May 2013

The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps
Newcastle Theatre Royal
''4 actors, 139 characters in 100 hilarious minutes!'' Yes! The official tag line is as accurate as a foreign spy's Luger at five paces.

I first read John Buchan's The 39 Steps 40 years ago (a present from my Grandmother) and have seen numerous screen versions since then. My first encounter with the play was back in 2009 at it's natural home, the Criterion Theatre. I was unsure how well the humour would work in what is essentially a very serious story, but found the whole thing utterly hilarious.

The 2013 UK tour provided me with a second opportunity - and I'm delighted to report the play was just as impressive the second time around.

The basic story should well known to readers and the official premise puts it into a neat nutshell: ''This blissfully funny show follows the incredible adventures of our handsome hero 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''. Quite so.

The four actors work as hard as any cast one is likely to see: changing their characters at almost impossible speed, running around, climbing through windows and even clambering up and down the stage at various points.

As the play is based prominently on the classic 1935 version, there is a plethora of Alfred Hitchcock references (ranging from subtle to obscure) in amongst the square jaws, stiff upper lips, Scottish landladies and despicable spies.

This wonderful play should be at the top of the list for theatre goers. I fully intend going to see it again (and possibly yet again) in the not too distant future.

Here's a trailer to whet the appetite.

Head for the official website for further information.

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