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The 39 Steps at the Leatherhead Theatre | Review

The 39 Steps - Nicole Faraday
The 39 Steps – Nicole Faraday in one of her roles

The talk in the foyer before this evening’s performance is that one of the actors hurt his leg last night and had to finish the second half in a wheelchair. There is no sign of any injury this evening as the amazing cast of four all skip run and dance their way through the performance.

Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of John Buchan’s novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s film manages to tell the story of Richard Hannay’s unwilling involvement in an international spy ring as a lightning-paced, slapstick, hilarious romp. There is very little of the mystery and suspense of the film.

Alex Scott Fairley is Richard Hannay, a bored bachelor who decides to visit the theatre to escape his tedious life. He is watching Mr Memory (one of many parts played by James Steventon) when the performance is interrupted by gunfire. A fellow theatregoer, a terrified Annabella Schmidt (Nicole Faraday), talks him into taking her back to his flat. There she tells him that she is a spy being chased by assassins and that she has discovered a plot to steal military secrets. Later that night Annabella is stabbed and before she dies she tells Hannay to escape and help uncover the plot by travelling to meet an accomplice in Scotland. Hannay, who is now wanted for murder, gets the Express Train to Scotland – Oh, how I wish it was really that quick!

Nicole Faraday, James Steventon and Alasdair Saksena play all the parts other than Hannay. Faraday switches between German spy to English traveller to Scottish Crofter’s wife. Steventon and Saksena play too many parts to mention including compere, Mr Memory, assassins, policemen and underwear salesmen. Each character has a distinctive accent so you are never confused as to whom you are watching and the cast never forget which accent to use!

Matthew Haysom’s set is very simple but a clever use of props transforms the stage into the different locations. Doors and windows are not attached to walls and can be wheeled into place by the casts with ease. This is a skilful, thoroughly enjoyable production, I loved it. I hope it heralds more live action theatre at Leatherhead in the near future.

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

By Arrangement with Edward Snape for Fiery Angel Limited, John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock’s
THE 39 STEPS, Adapted by Patrick Barlow, From an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon
presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH LTD, a Concord Theatricals Company

Richard Hannay is bored, but not for long. After an eventful night at the theatre and an unexpected murder, the fate of the entire world appears to be in his hands. In this fast-paced, hilarious and adventurous romp, around 250 characters are played by a fantastic cast of 4!

The Leatherhead Theatre
Church Street, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8DN, UK
Performances: Thursday 19th to Saturday 21st September 2019
https://www.theleatherheadtheatre.com/

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