Review | 39 Steps at New Vic

The 39 Steps review by David Bithell


Spy espionage adventure “The 39 Steps” has certainly arrived at the New Vic – and it’s safe to say Theresa Heskins and her amazing cast have pulled it out the bag yet again.

Patrick Barlow’s adaptation has kept to its roots in John Buchan’s tale of dashing hero Richard Hannay who attempts to clear himself of murder.

There are suspicious spies, chases a plenty, romance and conspiracy… all bought together with the wit, invention and amazement the audiences have come to expect from shows including crowd favourite Michael Hugo.

John Buchan’s story is a straight adventure but here becomes a ‘caper’ involving comedy, stunts and amazing intricate stage movement thoughout.

Isaac Stanmore plays Hannay superbly as a dashing upper class hero, with the outstanding Rebecca Brewer alongside him as three different skilfully drawn characters – femme fatale, bored wife and innocent woman on a train.

There are more than 100 roles in the play and New Vic favourites Michael Hugo and Gareth Cassidy play the vast majority of the rest with skill quick changing costumes.

The duo got some big laughs as they filled in as policemen, heavies, landladies and even a cow at one point – often cleverly changing costume and Scottish accent mid scene without missing a beat. Their comedic timing helps them during the performance.

The production has been put together perfectly which shines through with the fantastic stage designs – factoring in codes to the sets, lighting, sound and music including a bit of morse code.

You can sit there during the performance and try to work it out yourself… or you can even smile assuringly at the film references to an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

All the traditional New Vic acting styles are there to see – including the ‘flying’ money and the quick turnaround of the stage which echoes that of Around The World in 80 days.

Personally for me, it is the play against which all other New Vic ones in recent years have to be measured.

It is similar in many ways – especially in the fast paced chases  – and has the same fantastic production, bright staging, togetherness and sense of fun of its predecessor.

I have never laughed so much at theatre production and it is definitely one not to miss.  You will laugh from the beginning to end and audience participation is there in abundance.

The 39 Steps runs at the New Vic until March 30th. You can purchase Tickets by calling 01782 717962or via online at