REVIEW: The 39 Steps, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Until July 2
Four actors, 130 characters, and 100 hilarious minutes '“ this show is not to be missed.
I saw The 39 Steps for the first time last night and absolutely fell in love with this piece of theatre magic.
The rib-tickling show, adapted by Patrick Barlow, is sort of a farcical re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s tense spy thriller.
After handsome bachelor Richard Hannay (Richard Ede) has a chance meeting with secret agent Annabella (Olivia Greene), she is murdered in his West End flat after revealing that someone is trying to kill her over a secret known only as ‘The 39 Steps’.
Suspected of her murder, he’s chased down by the police and spies as he fights to uncover the truth.
The play is a hilarious masterpiece and had the entire audience laughing their socks off from start to finish.
It has the debonair sophistication of Hitchcock, the physical comedy of Laurel and Hardy, the silliness of Monty Python and the outrageously over-the-top characterisations of The Fast Show.
It’s the small touches that make this play so brilliantly funny, from the shadow puppets that tell parts of the story, to the way the actors wave their jackets and hats to simulate strong winds, the occasional breaking of the fourth wall, and the things that go wrong on purpose – it’s an absolute riot.
Ede is spectacular in the lead role. His cheeky character is instantly lovable and you’ll clutch your sides as he finds himself in one sticky situation after another.
Greene, who also plays Pamela and Margaret, is fantastic. She perfectly portrays the different characters.
Rob Witcomb and Andrew Hodges – Man 1 and Man 2 respectively – absolutely blew me away. The actors have an enviable talent. They play everything from spies to police officers, a Scottish landlord and lady, train passengers, newspaper sellers and cleaning ladies.
The way they rapidly swap between personas, getting the voice, accent, and mannerisms spot on each time was wonderfully impressive.
At times, the actors even had conversations with themselves, turning from side to side and taking a hat on and off, and it was side-splitting.
The back and forth between the characters is sharp-witted and fast-paced. The 39 Steps is so exciting and enthralling that it’ll absolutely whizz by and you’ll be gutted when it’s over.
The imaginative set and use of props is wonderful – the play is a complete triumph and I loved every second of it.
It pokes fun at itself and the original material, as well as throwing in the odd cheeky nod to Hitchcock’s other pieces.
This hilarious show is the perfect cure to the post-referendum blues.
The 39 Steps runs until Saturday, July 2. Click here to book tickets.