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The 39 Steps

Liverpool Playhouse
December 3 – January 16 (then touring until June 5, 2010)

Author: John Buchan adapted by Patrick Barlow
Director: Maria Aitken
Producer: Liverpool Everyman Playhouse, Fiery Angel Ltd, Tricycle Theatre and
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Cast Includes: Richard Braine, Dugald Bruce-Lockhart, Katherine Kingsley, Dan Starkey
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins

The 39 Steps promotional image

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

Adaptation is a funny old thing and, at times, The 39 Steps doesn’t quite know whether it wants to be an homage to a classic film or an out-and-out comedy in its own right. Yes there are some genuinely hilarious moments and fun is the optimum word to describe this touring production of the multi-award winning send up of this classic tale and, for the most part, it’s easy to see where its success lies. Some terrific staging, boundless enthusiasm and overt campness all add to the feel good factor that exudes from every pore. There’s also the chance to indulge in a bit of Hitchcock Classic Film Spotting to be played throughout the script and a truly memorable shadow play to enjoy.


However, in places, perhaps some of the pace could do with a little more energy. For instance, the scene in the hotel bedroom during the second half sees the whole thing draw almost to a standstill as the 1935 film is virtually re-enacted on stage.

This not withstanding, though, The 39 Steps is still a thoroughly entertaining romp, accentuated by four very fine cast members. Bruce-Lockhart as Hannay is all square-jawed hero who clearly has a dim side, as Madeleine Carroll’s role of Pamela, Hannay’s love interest, is taken on by Katherine Kingsley brilliantly. Yet it is the performances of Richard Braine and Dan Starkey who give the whole play its vim and vigour, swapping so many roles between them with such dexterity it is impossible to keep count.

As these are the first dates of a long tour, perhaps some of the pace will grow the more the cast become accustomed with everything that’s going on. And even if that’s not the case, then this remains worthy of its West End accolades, though is perhaps not yet quite so side-splittingly funny as might be expected from the hype.

Chris High


Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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