The 39 Steps review: A delight from start to finish
- Credit: Sean Owen
This stupendously silly spy thriller is a delight from start to finish.
Based on the story – but not the style – of Alfred Hitchcock's 1939 film, itself a loose adaptation of John Buchan's book, this comic romp turns theatre convention on its head.
Just four actors represent dozens of characters, making frequent in-jokes and playfully messing with what it means to be on stage: we see fake cars with breadstick window wipers, beds constructed out of people, and some very odd escapes through windows.
Everything is played for laughs, particularly by Molly-Rose Treves and Ben Prudence who take on most of the heavy lifting playing policemen, hotel owners, crofters, music hall stars, and even an airplane. Their comic asides to the audience are perfectly timed.
The strikingly tall Harry Benjamin stands out throughout as unwitting hero Richard Hannay, the unassuming chap caught up in a spy ring and having to fight to clear his name of murder. He has the debonair twinkle and sonorous voice of the classic matinee idol; you can't help rooting for him.
You may also want to watch:
Elea Hepper is a triple love interest, playing a glamorous spy, an innocent Highlander, and a no-nonsense woman of means. She is spot on throughout, but particularly shines as unlucky in love crofter Margaret; her pining tears both comic and strangely moving.
Director Chad Porter and designer James Utting have kept the production tight; it bounces along from gag to gag and the deceptively simple staging strikes the perfect balance between suggestion and functionality. Their planning, and the copious backstage help, is the silent engine that keeps the show running.
- 1 How Norwich are you? Take our quiz to find out
- 2 'Eyesore' bus won't be removed despite neighbours' pleas
- 3 Chantry Place 'close to finalising deals' with four major brands
- 4 'Such a shame': Social media scammer targets Norwich pub
- 5 Police probing reports Norwich clubbers have been spiked by needles
- 6 'Lives are at risk'-Patients' concerns over surgery appointment struggles
- 7 Tenant's despair as council fixes his windows by screwing them shut
- 8 One of Norwich's most photographed homes is up for sale
- 9 'Significant' amount of cash and electronics stolen from city home
- 10 All of Norwich's Christmas opening hours
Patrick Barlow's award-winning script is a modern classic, earning it a healthy nine-year West End run. This production by the Maddermarket Players absolutely does it justice.
• The 39 Steps continues until Saturday, February 23 at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich.