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The 39 Steps

by on 23 March 2019


The 39 Steps

By Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan

The Questors at The Judi Dench Playhouse, Ealing until 30th March

Review by Viola Selby

Right at the beginning our protagonist, Richard Hannay, states that he is bored with life and needs a bit of excitement – and this is exactly what he and the audience get throughout Simon Rudkin’s adaptation of this novel, film and west end play! For a story that has been told many times in many ways for many years, Rudkin manages to keep this adaptation fresh and the audience on the edge of their seats whilst wiping away tears of laughter. One reason for such comedy must come from the creatively clever set design by Peter Collins whose minimalistic approach allows for the audience to use their imagination and the four actors to use the props to create some superbly choreographed slapstick silliness. It is clear to see how all the cast and crew have made this performance appear to be one of effortless excellence, when actually it is anything but, with over 300 sound and lighting cues carefully designed by Tim Hayward and Christopher Smith. It is clear to see how both the cast and crew work wonders to make this play one not to be missed!

Richard Graylin as Richard Hannay makes for a superlative lead and the only actor in the entire play to play just one role. Graylin’s captivating performance as the rather handsome gentleman with the even more handsome pencil line moustache ensures audience members are constantly rooting for him, even during his many setbacks and consistent flirting with any pretty young lass he meets. Whilst Claire Durrant manages perfectly to portray not just one female role, but three, all with such different personas and with accents ranging from German to Scottish! No matter which role she plays, Durrant’s chemistry with Graylin is powerful and a great source for many of their most hilarious moments together, especially one involving handcuffs and a pair of stockings.

However, The 39 Steps would be nothing without its two clowns, brilliantly acted by Freddy Sledge and Nicholas Thomas who effortlessly slip into a multitude of different characters of either gender, many of which happen in the same scene. To do this, Sledge and Thomas master a variety of accents, fast movements and timings that keep the audience in stitches. A scene that really shows of their talents is the one that takes place in the lobby of a Scottish hotel where they simultaneously take on a couple of English crooks and the excessively Scottish husband and wife who own the hotel and who end up kicking the crooks out of their hotel. This scene also shows the creative mastery of Shaan Latif- Shaikh and Jenny Richardson who designed the outfits that allow the actors to be able to create such scenes whilst highlighting each character’s persona. For example, the vampish dress of the seductive secret agent Annabelle to the simple yet pretty smock of the oppressed farmer’s wife Margaret.

So no matter if you are a 39 Steps anorak or completely new to the tale, this adaptation is a thrilling, laugh-a-second comedy that takes you on a misadventure of a lifetime! From a murder in a boring London flat, through a number of showdowns and jumping through windows in the highlands of Scotland and back down to the London Palladium, all in just 100 minutes and with only four actors! Absolutely brilliant!

Viola Selby
March 2019

Photography by Robert Vass


From → Drama, Reviews

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