The 39 Steps is Return to Brisbane in Style
By Douglas Kennedy.
The comic stage adaption of the world’s best-loved Boys’ Own story, John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, is due to have a short Brisbane run having been seen by three million theatre goers in more than 60 countries.
This remarkably resistant spy yarn, which first hit the book shelves in 1915, has once again demonstrated that it has the potential to be re-invented in yet another medium.
The story of falsely accused Canadian ex-pat, Richard Hannay, who finds himself on the run from gangsters, spies and the police, follows the classic format of an innocent man on a journey to clear his name.
When Alfred Hitchcock turned it into his 1935 masterpiece, with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, who could have guessed that more than 70 years later it would be re-cast as an award-winning side splitting comedy and tribute to Hitchcock classics?
Like many a theatrical acorn – destined to grow into a mighty sensational oak – the new millennium The 39 Steps had its first outing in front of a small country audience.
The show had its West End premiere in 2006 and is presently the longest running comedy in the theatrical jewel’s crown with other distinguished seasons including 771 performances on Broadway.
While the original movie was peppered with one-lines and amusing situations, the new stage version has been given a Monty Python make-over and sprayed with references to movies such as Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest. All vintage Hitchcock.
Sounds as if it would demand a cast of thousands?
The play races along, like the Flying Scotsman Hannay travelled on to
The Highlands, with four actors playing more than a hundred characters, often changing within the same scene. Only the actor playing Hannay remains in the same part for the whole show.
Before 1915, and 1935, no one had a clue what to do when a beautiful woman turned up dead in their apartment. Then it became obvious.
You jump on a train and head off to Scotland, become involved with a beautiful stranger, who happens to be handcuffed to you, and solve the mystery of the 39 Steps. Great stuff.
The 39 Steps, conceived for the stage by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and developed by Patrick Barlow, plays The Twelfth Night Theatre October 21-26. The show features the Green Room nominated Mike Smith, Anna Burgess, British-born Sam Haft and Michael Linder.