REVIEW: The 39 Steps – Criterion Theatre, London

This evening (Thurs 15th May) I had the opportunity to go and watch a marvelous play in the West End called “The 39 Steps” at The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly.

The Thirty-Nine Steps was a novel written by John Buchan and published in 1915, shortly after the commencement of the First World War. Indeed the subtext to the whole story of the novel is that the character Richard Hannay comes across information that war secrets are about to be passed to the enemy just as the country is about to enter war, and he becomes mixed up in protecting both himself and his country from such a theft. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film version, on which Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation is also based, differs slightly from the novel but not in too material a way.

I must say, I went to see God of Carnage in the West End the other week and thought it one of the best plays currently showing in London, however I think that The 39 Steps has just clinched that title! Never before have I laughed so much in a theatre in all my life! The show is billed as “4 actors, 150 roles” – and cor do they squeeze them in! 

If high wit and slapstick comedy are your ‘things’, then this is a play for you. Although the stage design is very clever and works tremendously well, it is the cast of four who are the real selling point of this show. They work fantastically well together and with the set and really help to take you out of your seat and into their world. The Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage Awards for Best New Comedy 2007 are definitely well deserved.

Try as I may, I really cannot find anything at all to fault this show on at all (except for my wishing that it was an additional 4/5 hours longer! – incidentally it is 2 hours including interval). I took Brett with me to see the show this evening and he enjoyed it just as much as I did.

I cannot recommend this play highly enough and really do suggest spending the money on a ticket to go and see it. Tickets start from £10 and can, amongst other places, be booked HERE.

West End Cast  [as of May 2008]

  • Martyn Ellis – Man
  • Josefina Gabrielle – Annabella Schmidt / Pamela / Margaret
  • Simon Gregor – Man
  • Simon Paisley Day – Richard Hannay

About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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