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REVIEW: The 39 Steps, UK Tour, Glasgow 2024

Updated: May 30

The cast of The 39 Steps UK Tour 2024. Photo credit: Mark Senior


Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps

Adapted by Patrick Barlow

Directed by Nicola Samer


28 May 2024

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

⭐⭐⭐

Good old-fashioned frantic fun.




1935, London: When handsome gent Richard Hannay finds himself accused of murder, he embarks on a perilous journey north (by north west) to Scotland to prevent top-secret information from falling into the hands of spies.


The classic Hitchcock spy thriller The 39 Steps has been adapted for the stage by renowned actor and playwright Patrick Barlow. This comedic version of the film (and of the original John Buchan novel) makes fun of the art of theatre itself, and turns The 39 Steps into a fast-paced, frantic, farce. The entire show is performed by just four actors who between them play all 139 characters. It's a remarkable feat of direction, acting talent and comedic timing.


The cast of The 39 Steps UK Tour 2024. Photo credit: Mark Senior

On opening night in Glasgow we had understudy Jacob Daniels in the lead role of Richard Hannay - the only actor to stay in the same character for the entirety of the play. He was word and note perfect; A brilliant performance from a very believable and charismatic leading-man. The trio of leading ladies that Hannay encounters, including love interest Annabella, falls to the beautiful Safeena Ladha. Which by my calculation leaves 135 roles to Eugene McCoy and Maddie Rice. And they were astonishing! Quick changes in both costume and accents, quick wits and staggering stamina see them shift at lightning speed from police officers, to hotel owners, and indeed to anyone the two leads are not.


There is very little in terms of set, but props and lighting are used very well throughout to set the scene and provide more than a few laughs. The play never pokes fun at Buchan's story, but it does satirise the absurdity of live theatre - and it does it admirably. The funniest jokes come when the staging 'goes wrong' or an actor or stage hand doesn't quite get their timing right. Of course, much like the brilliant 'Goes Wrong' shows - everything is exactly as it's meant to be, and the skill and comic timing needed to pull off so many of these incidents at speed is phenomenal.


The cast of The 39 Steps UK Tour 2024. Photo credit: Mark Senior

As our hero flees aboard The Flying Scotsman, over the Forth Road Bridge and across the rugged Scottish countryside, I was reminded of other Hitchcock and classic british thriller films where an innocent man is forced to go on the run. The 39 Steps (the play) does acknowledge this, and also cleverly manages to incorporate many nods to Hitchcock's other works and to the man himself, much to the audience's delight. But despite the short (under 100 minutes) run time and stellar work from the actors, I did find my mind drift off at times. And even though the show has so many characters and so much plot to cram in, it still somehow managed to have a couple of scenes that ran too long.


I personally found The 39 Steps enjoyable and entertaining, but it's didn't raise more than an appreciative smile from me. I did prefer the recent 'Peter Pan Goes Wrong' from Mischief Comedy which is in the same farcical vein, but which had me struggling for breath I was laughing so much. However the performances in this production are excellent and it's a perfectly enjoyable and entertaining night at the theatre. It's worth going to marvel at the sheer fortitude and fearless of the two 'clowns' alone!


The 39 Steps is a gentle, good old-fashioned British spy romp delivered with sublime speed and skill.

⭐⭐⭐



The 39 Steps is at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow from 28 May - 1 June 2024


📸 Production photos: Mark Senior




 

The 39 Steps Cast (Glasgow Theatre Royal, Tuesday 28 May 2024

 

Richard Hannay Jacob Daniels

Pamela / Annabella / Margaret Safeena Ladha

Clown 1 Eugene McCoy

Clown 2 Maddie Rice


 

The 39 Steps UK Tour - dates, venues and tickets


THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW

TUESDAY 28 MAY – SATURDAY 1 JUNE 2024

🎟️ Tickets from £13




Birmingham Alexandra 4 Jun - 8 Jun

Brighton Theatre Royal 16 Jul - 20 Jul

York Grand Opera House 23 Jul - 27 Jul





LONDON - WEST END


The 39 Steps London West End 2024

It has just been announced that The 39 Steps will return to London’s West End for the first time since 2015, with a strictly limited seven-week season at the Trafalgar Theatre from 16 August to 28 September 2024. Casting is to be announced.



 


THE 39 STEPS first ran in London’s West End for nine years, finally closing in 2015.  It won the Olivier and Whatsonstage Awards for Best Comedy in 2007.  It also took Broadway by storm, winning two Tony Awards and a Drama Desk Award in 2008.  The play, with its quintessentially plucky spirit and dashing sense of British fun, has toured to 39 countries and played to over 3 million people worldwide.  A UK tour of this production is currently running until 3 August.

 


 

Burlesque, Glasgow Theatre Royal tickets

➡️ See what else is coming up at The Theatre Royal, Glasgow soon including Life of Pi, Burlesque, Only fools and Horses the musical and Disney's Aladdin!




&Juliet Glasgow






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The 39 Steps review, Patrick Barlow, UK Tour, Theatre Royal, Glasgow May 2024



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🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and invites have no impact on my analysis or star ratings.


Lisa in the Theatre, Scottish Theatre, UK theatre blogger, reviewer, critic

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