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The New Vic Theatre – The 39 Steps – Adapted by Patrick Barlow

25 March 2019 Local News Theatre

Hitmix Radio Review

The 39 Steps – a wartime spy drama written in 1915 by Richard Buchan – a tale of adventure and intrigue – possibly a little bit serious?

In true New Vic style, the play is a million miles from the actual whilst still managing to cover the story.  It is a laugh-a-minute!!

Basic plot – Richard Hannay (Isaac Stanmore) somehow manages to end up with a dead woman in his flat, who has just managed to pass on some top secret information. Although he is innocent of any wrong doing, Hannay spends the whole time avoiding capture and trying to foil a plot to undermine the British air defences.

Four actors take on all of the roles – and there are over 120 of them!! Assisted by minimal but effective props and superb musical interludes, the story comes to life.

Isaac Stanmore just plays the one character, the hero Richard Hannay, and he does so with absolute panache.  I am sure that he is not meant to be the main comedic figure, but the sight of him running round in circles carrying a smoking stick to signify him running through the moors was hysterical!!

Rebecca Brewer played the female characters, Annabella Schmidt, Pamela and Margaret – three very different characters all played with hilarity and style. What a gifted actress!

Michael Hugo and Gareth Cassidy, who are described in the programme as ‘clowns’, play the majority of the characters with a skill which appears to be effortless. From policemen, spies, dancing hoteliers, pilots, a cow and many more, all acted at a whirlwind speed, with costume and character changes often taking place mid scene before your eyes. They have an extraordinary rapport and how they stop themselves laughing when they are face to face I will never know!

The New Vic never fail to delight and this play is no exception – it is brilliantly funny and as well as out loud belly laughs at various scenes, I found myself sniggering throughout at the little silly things!!  There are a lot of clever hidden references in the play which you either notice or you don’t!!  It is a must see play, and I highly recommend it!!

“The 39 Steps” runs at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday March 30th.


 All photographs courtesy of AndrewBillington – The 39 Steps at the New Vic

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