The Thirty Nine Steps at The King’s Theatre is one of funniest and most innovative works for theatre that I have reviewed in a long time and was just a pleasure to watch from start to finish.
When I first read that this stage production written and adapted by Patrick Barlow and based on the classic Alfred Hitchcock version film of John Buchan’s classic novel “The Thirty Nine Steps” was only going to have four people playing 139 roles and be a comedy, my initial reaction was “Oh no”. Alfred Hitchcock paid little attention to the original source material, but this was going a bit too far…just proves how wrong you can be as this was brilliantly done.
Richard Hannaym, our story’s hero who unintentionally gets involved with spies, is played wonderfully by Richard Ede. Richard is the only actor who plays one role here. Olivia Greene plays the female roles of Pamela, Annabella and Margaret in great style, with Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb somehow playing everyone else and along the way giving us some amazing character studies of people.
This is a fast paced show that, apart from the interval, simply never stops for a second. The comedy is gentle but never intrusive on the ever changing story line. The spoken and visual comedy elements are also beautifully timed; it takes real skill both in acting and direction (director Maria Aitken, movement director Toby Sedgwick) to pull this off properly (and they do).
There may only be four actors on stage, but there is a fifth, and that is the stage set and design itself as they play an ever changing part in the story line. Set and costume design is by Peter McKintosh, Lighting Designer Ian Scott and Sound Designer Mic Pool.
“The 39 Steps” is simply a great evening’s entertainment at the theatre.
Review by Tom King