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Review: The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps brings the spies, the slapstick and the satire to Leatherhead theatre - but it ends Saturday so be quick.

Patrick Barlow’s adaption of John Buchan‘s 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film is a fast and chaotic laugh-out-loud farce – and it’s not to be missed.

All photos by Mark Turner / @markmakesphotos

A night at the theatre takes an unexpected turn for Richard Hannay, when a top-secret mission gets passed onto him from glamorous agent, Anabelle Schmidt. Hannay becomes embroiled in a spy ring connected to the cryptic, critically named, ‘39 Steps.’  Finding himself on the run from the police after being accused for Schmidt’s murder, Hannay goes in search to stop the spies from revealing top secrets to their contact.

Four cast members adopt an array of interchanging characters. Alex Scott Fairley adopts the role of the young, dapper, well-to-do Richard Hannay, exuberating charisma and charm. Nicole Faraday (known for her role of Snowball Merriman in ITV’s Bad Girls) plays Anabella, an enigmatic and glamorous German spy, Pamela and a repertoire of other characters.

The other two actors James Steventon and Alasdair Saksena, played a repertoire of characters, upping the comic anti to the extreme. The minimalist set dynamically transforms the stage into the different locations of Hannay’s journey. Window frames become railway carriages and wooden blocks become modes of transport during slickly choreographed scene changes.

It’s a play where things are supposed to go wrong, sound cues have to be prompted by the actors and props are misplaced all adding to the entertaining slapstick and satire. The cast showed a remarkable comic ability and improvisation, after a real accident occurred in the show. At the end of act 1, the director came on-stage to inform the audience that the actor James had just sprained his ankle and they needed a few more minutes of intermission to figure out if the show could continue.

After much anticipation the audience were told “the show will go on!” As the curtains arose, James entered on stage in a wheelchair greatly adding to the comedic and farcical nature of the show. This was especially poignant when he was supposed to be chased by the character Hannay but clearly couldn’t go very far. Steventon did an incredibly impressive job and the audience loved it.

The cast has impeccable diction as they fluently shifted accents which allowed the audience to follow every nuance and every word of this frenetically paced play.

It’s only on for two nights, book now, it’s brilliant!

See The 39 Steps at Leatherhead Theatre until Sat 21 Sept.


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