Newest Review: ... running at London's Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus for many years now. I have seen it three times now and still enjoy it to this d... more
The funniest play in the West End
The 39 Steps
Member Name: BlowUp72
The 39 Steps
Advantages: A comic adaptation of the play
Disadvantages: The prices are steep if you book in advance
The 39 Steps, playing at the Criterion Theatre in London's West End, is a 2005 adaptation by Patrick Barlow of the famous John Buchan book of the same name, published in 1915. The play is heavily influenced though by the Alfred Hitchcock movie, which was released in 1935.
In the play there are several references to other Hitchcock films; including in the famous chase scene in which the bi-plane that searches for the lead character Richard Hannay is in fact the plane from North by Northwest! Alfred Hitchcock's famous silhouette also makes an appearance in the play.
Richard Hannay, having made a small fortune mining abroad, has returned to London circa 1914, though he has become thoroughly bored by city life. With time on his hands he wants to waste a few hours so he takes in a theatrical show. While at the theatre he meets a young woman who is embroiled in a plot involving spies, foreign governments and the threat of war breaking out across Europe. When the woman is killed he has only a few clues to lead him to the spies and the answer to the riddle, "What are the 39 steps?"
The Criterion Theatre Production
This play is a comedic look at the play, as opposed to the spy thriller made by Hitchcock or the later adaptations with Robert Powell or Kenneth More. It is influenced by Hitchcock's version more than the book, as it revisits key scenes from the film and retains the female character of Annabella Schmidt and Pamela, which are not in the book.
It is a four person play, with all the roles played by them during the two hour performance. The funniest scenes in the play show how the actors' versatility is stretched to great degrees as they have to swap hats, coats and other objects to change to and from characters within a single scene. The scene at the inn keeper's house and the train journey is particularly funny, as the actors move back and forth from different characters within seconds.
I have seen this play twice with my family and loved it every time. It is one of the funniest plays on in London at the moment and should be released on DVD, as it would be such a shame if it were forgotten. Every scene is explored for the comic potential, from the death scene of Annabella Schmidt to the climax based in the London Palladium. With funny use of props, sound affects, great character acting and a brilliant script, it is the deserved winner of the 2007 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
Without giving too much away, I laughed at every minute of this and would see it for a third time. It is suitable for the whole family and offers different thrills for children, adults and grandparents.
With ticket prices ranging from £12.50-45.00, there are also deductions for students or if you buy from a stall by the theatre. You will pay full price by booking online, so make sure you get them on the day and get a discount!
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