The 39 Steps
Review by Nigel Bell
Spies, music hall and shadow puppets combine to make this a memorable night out.
John Buchan might have written The 39 Steps but in the three times it's been turned into a feature film it's never followed the novel's plot line.
The same can be said of Patrick Barlow's adaptation. His is a comic homage to the original and best movie, Hitchcock's 1935 effort starring Robert Donat as the have-a-go hero.
Clare Swinburne as Pamela
And it must be said that the majority of the play's dialogue is exactly the same as that film, it's just the way the words are delivered and the superb stage craft that makes this so hugely enjoyable.
If you've never seen the film, don't worry, you'll get the jokes. But if you're an aficionado of the Alfred Hitchcock version, indeed, all things Hitchcock, you're in for a treat.
You can tick off the references as music from Psycho and Vertigo pop up during the second half of the show as well as name checks for at least two other Hitch films.
There's even a cameo of the great man himself, albeit in shadow puppet form, in one of the laugh out loud moments (one of many) that also includes the Loch Ness Monster.
David Michaels as Richard
Only four actors are involved in the show – David Michaels plays Hannay while Clare Swinburne, Colin Mace and Alan Perrin play everybody else.
It's the cue for a pantomime style atmosphere as multiple-characters appear before your eyes courtesy of a quick hat change.
You'll never take a quicker train journey from London to Edinburgh (or laugh as much) and there's even an epilogue, not in the film, that'll make you go "ahh".
The only time the production failed to come alive was early in the second half, when Hannay has to pretend to be a speaker at a political rally. The scene's a real winner in the film – a mix of tension and humour, but on stage, Hannay's speech was drawn out for too long and negated the laughter previously derived from the quiet Mr McQuarry. A minor quibble for an otherwise splendid production.
The 39 Steps is on at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 2 February 2008. For more information contact the box office on 0115 989 5555.
last updated: 30/01/2008 at 10:54