Views from the Stalls and Views from the Sofa - My reviews and thoughts on all things theatre and television. Follow me on Twitter @LikeTheMonth_

Monday, 11 April 2011

'The 39 Steps' - Criterion Theatre, London

2nd April 2011
This Olivier Award winning comedy is in its fifth year in London’s West End and is a show everyone should see at least once.  It is difficult to say too much about it without spoiling the many surprises within, but it is safe to say, it will not be what you expect! 
This stage version of John Buchan’s classic novel stays true to the original story and that of the 1935 movie by Alfred Hitchcock, telling the story of protagonist Richard Hannay, wanted for murder and embroiled in a story of spies and secrets.  With a cast of only four playing 139 characters between them however, it becomes a farce that is gloriously inventive while never mocking its source material. 
Rufus Wright is likeable, charming (and really rather handsome!) as Richard Hannay, rarely off stage for the entire performance and is ably matched by Laura Rogers as his three romantic interests, German Annabella Schmidt, Glaswegian Margaret and the prim and proper Pamela.  Rogers switches between characters and accents with ease and she and Wright form a strong partnership, getting every inch of humour out of the script. 
The rest of the characters were played with crowd-pleasing aplomb by Sean Kearns and on this occasion, understudy James Hurn; switching between sinister spies and Scottish hoteliers, heroes and villains, males and females with what looks like remarkable ease but I imagine is in fact very well practised. 
Indeed, much of the charm of the show comes from its shambolic, amateurish execution and yet it is in fact extremely clever, with everything from timing and delivery to the use of props and lighting effects very well thought out. 
If you are familiar with the original or the Hitchcock movie, you will love seeing how they manage iconic scenes such as the chase across the Scottish moors, Hannay & Pamela’s handcuffed escape and the train journey from London to Scotland.  Hitchcock fans will be able to spot the titles of some of his other works and even a cameo from the man himself.   Indeed, the show is best viewed as a very entertaining homage to the original. 
I do not want to spoil any aspect of the show, so will not say any more, other than that if you want to see a fun, endlessly amusing show with a very talented cast, you cannot go wrong with The 39 Steps.  Gloriously daft from beginning to end, you will definitely leave with a smile on your face!  
The 39 Steps is booking until October 2011, check out for more information and to book. 

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