Theatre Review: The 39 Steps

Review by Rachel Edwards

This week, 4 actors roll into town tasked with playing 139 characters in 100 minutes. With an average of more than one character per minute you would expect this to be a fast-paced play and it doesn’t fail to deliver.

It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s spy thriller, ‘The 39 Steps’, which is now on tour having spent 9 years in the West End and picked up an Olivier award along the way!

The story follows true English gent Richard Hannay, our handsome hero who is accompanied by a pencil moustache, as he goes on the run after a woman is murdered in his flat. Along the way he encounters a wide range of individuals from secret agents to newsboys, policemen to traveling lingerie salesmen.

All of these characters are distinct and brilliantly portrayed by the 4 cast members who work fantastically together to maintain great energy and an incredibly fast pace. Comedy is in abundance throughout, especially through the use of physical theatre.

The staging of this tale is extremely clever and imaginative, creating entire settings from only a few props. The commitment to everything from maintaining the windy backdrop of Scotland to establishing complete cars and bridges only serves to further draw the audience in to this world of quick-changes. Particularly stand-out was a train escape and chase where we move from being in the train, to on the roof, to hanging from the bottom of a bridge in quick succession but complete believability.

A further highlight was the imaginative use of shadow puppetry. This progresses the plot and breaks up the action whilst gaining further laughs and keeping the audience well and truly on their toes wondering what inventive thing will be thrown in to the mix next.

‘The 39 Steps’ is a hilarious and hugely entertaining play that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Well worth a visit this week to Crewe Lyceum where it is on until Saturday.