Directed by Terence O'Connell
Christine Harris & HIT Productions
Q Theatre, Queanbeyan, 8 - 12 October 2013
Review by Len Power
Everyone enjoys an adventure yarn with a handsome, still upper lip hero, beautiful woman and dangerous crooks and John Buchan’s, ‘The 39 Steps’, is an exciting 1915 novel with all of those elements. Film director, Alfred Hitchcock, thought so too and made a classic movie of the novel in 1935. Jump to 2005 and a stage production, based on the movie, opened in London’s West End where it has been running ever since. Now it’s Queanbeyan’s turn to see this fun show.
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, ‘The 39 Steps’ becomes a smart, witty theatrical vehicle for four actors playing a multitude of characters using various mundane items scattered about the stage to represent important items in the story. For example, step ladders become the Firth Of Forth Bridge and a couple of steamer trunks and appropriate lighting represent a railway compartment.
Originally from Queanbeyan, Mike Smith plays the dashing hero, Richard Hannay, with great appeal and a good sense of timing. Anna Burgess plays three different women and her characterisations are sharply defined, well-played and very funny. Sam Haft and Michael Lindner play a bewildering number of characters, both male and female, as the play progresses and they are hilarious. They must be exhausted by the end of each performance.
Costumes designed by Kim Bishop were in period and had a sense of fun about them, especially the costumes and accessories and wigs worn by the men who were playing female characters at times. Lighting designer, Jason Bovaird, and sound designer, Nicholas J Reich, have done a fine job creating the right atmosphere. The various elements of the set designed by Jacob Battista were well chosen but on the Q Theatre’s large stage the overall effect was one of sparseness. It probably works better in a more intimate theatre.
This touring production, directed by Terence O’Connell is a fun entertainment, engaging the audience’s imagination throughout the play. There seemed more reliance on character and plot in this production and less on the use of props. This kind of crazy entertainment needs to be fast and frenetic but in this production the pacing at times was a bit too deliberate. Still, it’s a fun show that should appeal to audiences of all ages and it’s not surprising that it’s become London’s longest-running comedy ever.
Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 13 October 2013.