21-25 June 2016
Reviewed by Hannah Abbott
Usually when you think of The 39 Steps you think of the famous Alfred Hitchcock film, occasionally you may think of the John Buchan novel that Hitchcock used as a base for his film. Well no more. Now you can think of the hilariously adapted stage performance that is currently on tour around the UK.
Personally, I haven’t seen The 39 Steps before but that was no issue. There were occasions in which I didn’t join in the laughter of the audience because I didn’t understand the references to other Hitchcock’s films but it didn’t reduce the overall comical value of the show.
My Dad joined me in the audience of the opening performance at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays. He is not averse to watching the occasional Hitchcock film, in fact I remember him watching The 39 Steps each time it was on the TV growing up. Discussing the show prior he explained to me that it’s basically a spy thriller based just before WW1, a man (Richard Handley) who accidentally gets caught up in the spy world and has to embrace it in order to save Britain or be charged for an act of crime that he didn’t commit. The whole story of The 39 Steps is based around the police chasing Richard Hanley from London, across Scotland and back to London in order to solve the mysterious clues that he was given regarding the fate of the country. So how on earth can you base a stage play containing only 4 cast members and a set stage around this chase? How can you portray 139 characters throughout the performance with only these 4 cast members? Truthfully… with some fantastic staging, ingenious lighting and some unbelievably comedic performing.
With main characters performed by Richard Ede and Olivia Greene the show contained a consistent presence mainly due to these two wonderful performers. But for me the majority of the comical value of the show came from Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb who played all of the additional characters throughout the performance. Elements of the show looked accidental and not quite as smooth running as you would expect from such a large touring show but this added to the hilarity of the show. Unfortunately, no matter how amazing the show was it came with one flaw that did frustrate some members of the audience. Mainly at the beginning of the performance the show began very quietly. I’m not sure whether performers had mic’s on or not but if they did they weren’t loud enough. This made it difficult to hear the story from the start. The second act seemed much louder and clearer but it did cause difficulty to some of the audience, especially those like myself who were unfamiliar with the story.
Overall, this was a fantastic production. It was hilariously staged and just a breath of fresh air to watch. It was such a shame that the audience wasn’t full. But there is still time to catch the show at the Lowry. It’s on until Saturday 25th June at the Lowry, Salford Quays.
4 Stars – definitely worth a watch.
Tickets cost from £19.50 to £28.50 (includes £2 booking fee).
The 39 Steps is at The Lowry in Manchester until 25 June 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000