The 39 Steps

Stepping into the world of "The 39 Steps" for the first time on stage proved to be a delightful escape that exceeded my expectations. While staying true to the essence of Alfred Hitchcock's film adaptation, this rendition of the classic story has a heightened sense of comedy that had the audience in stitches.

Under the direction of Maria Aitken, the production cleverly pays homage to Hitchcock with subtle nods throughout. One such instance is the clever substitution of actor screams with the iconic steam whistle of the Flying Scotsman, a nod appreciated by fans of the original film.

Eugene McCoy and Maddie Rice, credited as Clown 1 and Clown 2 respectively, delivered a tour de force performance, seamlessly transitioning between a multitude of characters demonstrating so much skill as they do. Their ability to portray multiple roles in a single scene, aided by the simple act of switching hats, was tremendous and shows their versatility as performers.

The use of physical comedy was a highlight, particularly in the inventive ways characters climbed out of windows, each instance more absurdly humorous than the last. Additionally, moments like the lamppost outside the window added an extra layer of comedic charm to the production.

Classic comedy devices such as the phone ringing late and chairs sliding behind actors were executed with finesse, seamlessly integrated into the narrative without missing a beat.

Safeena Ladha, in her portrayal of multiple characters but predominantly Pamela, and Tom Byrne as Richard Hannay, displayed remarkable chemistry on stage. Movement Director Toby Sedgwick's choreography enhanced their performance, especially in moments of physical constraint, creating chemistry and laughter in equal measure. These two move so easily as one when they are handcuffed together, climbing over things and carrying each other, it is only in the deliberately awkward moments that you are aware of how challenging this must be, climbing over and through the stile, not to mention the tension this helps create as Ladha removes her stockings.

Consistency in style was a key strength of the production, with subtle details like jacket flapping and hair tousling effectively conveying the atmospheric setting, starting while on the train, and continuing on particularly in the windy Scottish landscapes.

Not to be overlooked are the charming shadow puppetry sequences, which added visual depth and humour to pivotal scenes. From lively shadow puppets evoking a bustling room of party goers to the comically rendered escape from the bridge, the use of puppets added a unique and memorable dimension to the production.

In summary, The 39 Steps is a rip-roaring success, a comedic experience that pays homage to its source material while delivering fresh laughs and inventive staging. With a talented cast and creative direction, it's a theatrical journey worth embarking on.

This show was reviewed on the 4th April 2024 at Richmond Theatre where it runs until the 6th April 2024.  Tickets here: The 39 Steps Tickets | Richmond Theatre in Greater London | ATG Tickets

Full tour details can be found here: TICKETS - The 39 Steps (

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides


Photo credit: Mark Senior

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