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The 39 Steps - Norwich Theatre (18.06.2024)

Murder, espionage, mystery, and a huge dose of laughter were what was served up as multi award-winning comedy The 39 Steps hit the stage at Norwich Theatre Royal last night on the latest leg of its UK tour.

Originally written as a novel in 1915 by John Buchan and made into a film by none other than Alfred Hitchcock, The 39 Steps was adapted by acclaimed writer Patrick Barlow and made it into a Olivier and Tony award winning international hit.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it's effectively a spoof spy thriller. It follows Edwardian toff Richard Hannay who is framed and pursued for the murder of a femme fatale at his London flat. Hannay subsequently finds himself embroiled in the mystery of 'the 39 steps'. The chase that ensues sees him head for Scotland where he meets a host of amusing characters, before returning to London for the final dramatic showdown.

This is all performed by just four actors, who hilariously (and at times breathlessly) play a combination of over 130 characters.

Though it does involve some impressive set pieces, this production is at its side-splitting and charming best when making use of basic props to recreate a chase over train carriages, or hanging off a makeshift Forth Bridge. There's also brilliant use of shadow puppetry as Hannay makes his way across the highlands and evades being gunned down by planes.

The technical team have a huge part to play in boosting the comedy in this production ensuring sound effects, lighting cues, props and costumes are precisely choreographed (or deliberately mistimed) with the action. It's only fitting that a few of the 'techies' were also brought on stage to take a bow at the end too.

It is an absolute comic masterpiece, wonderfully staged by this most talented of teams, so do catch it while you can! The 39 Steps continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 22 June.


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