The 39 Steps

November 2011

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The 39 Steps - by John Buchan. Adapted by Patrick Barlow.
Performed - Wed 9th to Sat 12th November 2011 at Blackfriars Theatre

It is 1935. Canadian adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life. He attends a music hall where he meets Annabella Schmidt who is running away from secret agents. She invites herself back to his flat but during the night she is murdered whilst he sleeps. Fearing he will be arrested for the murder, Hannay goes on the run to Scotland in order to clear his name and break the spy ring. This Patrick Barlow comedy adaptation of the 1935 Hitchcock film includes all the legendary scenes; the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape on the Forth Bridge, and the gripping finale at the London Palladium. 

Many people will be acquainted with the storyline of 'The 39 Steps' by John Buchan, having read the book or seen the 1935 Hitchcock film, but this 'spoof' adaptation transformed it into an hilarious comedy. Using a format that was predominantly a mix of 'Goon Show' and 'Monty Python' styles, it was transformed into a great comedic experience.

Peter Kay, Rachel Rowett and Jo Carling played their respective roles as Richard Hannay, Pamela Edwards and Annabella Schmitt very competently in conventional styles whilst David Edgar and Danny Chester-Bush performed 'their socks off' as several different characters that required super-fast costume changes and the adoption of various accents.

The show was much enhanced by the extremely efficient production team who ensured that the many set changes, props and stage effects were expertly co-ordinated. Thank you to all who were involved for giving your audience so much to laugh at.
Peter Breach NODA 10/11/2011

‘39 Steps’ ……. to a roaring success
Last week Boston playgoers presented ‘The 39 Steps’ at Blackfriars Theatre and for those of you who didn’t see it, you missed a real treat.

Adapted from Alfred Hitchcock’s version of the original John Buchan story by Patrick Barlow of ‘National Theatre of Brent’ fame, the adaptation was wonderfully flaky, dotty and completely hilarious.

Looked at objectively, the original story – man learns of national secret about to be smuggled to the enemy and spends next two hours highly confused while yomping through the Scottish Highlands handcuffed to strange girl – was obviously ripe for parody and this, splendidly, was it.

Peter Kay as the long suffering, slightly irascible central character Richard Hannay was excellent. The part is somewhat thankless as Hannay in this version is not so much the hero of the piece as the stooge and fall guy to all the bizarre and grotesque characters that he happens across. This requires that he is on stage solemnly carrying the narrative for the entire action and doing it very believably.

Rachel Rowett and Jo Carling both displayed very good comedy abilities, Rachel as Hannay’s handcuffed love interest and Jo in a couple of cameo roles which demonstrated two very competent ‘accents.’

The comedy highlights of the play, a selection of thugs, policemen, railway porters, crofters, landladies, villains and general riff-raff were all played by Danny Chester-Bush and David Edgar. In these diverse roles they were required to don in double quick time a variety of hats, clothes, props, accents and roles often several times within a short scene. They were fabulously funny and the audiences loved them. 

The principal congratulations however should go to the production as a whole; well rehearsed, it maintained pace, the handling of the sound effects was spot on, the scene changes quick and built into the action so that they were virtually seamless, the direction obviously excellent.

It’s not often one comes out of an amateur performance aching from laughter and wishing to see it again…
Well done Playgoers.
Sam Zwemmer, Boston Standard 23/11/2011

Actors names on right:

Richard Hannay - Peter Kay
Annabella Schmidt & Crofter's Wife - Jo Carling
Pamela - Rachel Rowett
Clown 1 - David Edgar
Clown 2 - Danny Chester-Bush 

Production Team

Director - Paul Gibson
Producer - Alma Watts
Stage Manager - Chris Hunt
Set Design - Paul Gibson
Stage Crew - Bob Green, Alma Watts, Nikki Welsh, Chris Hunt, Jacob Moore
Costume - Violet Truelove Wardrobe / Alma Watts
Furniture & Properties - Trevor Howsam
Lighting - Paul Gibson
Sound - Paul Gibson / Melissa Marlowe
Poster - Paul Gibson
Programme - Melissa Marlowe