I came to the stage production of “The 39 Steps” by a rather circuitous route. I think the journey started with me watching Kenneth More’s sterling performance as Douglas Bader in the 1956 film “Reach for the Sky” and peaked with the 1959 film version of “The 39 Steps“, in which More plays the hero, Richard Hannay. Later I would start working my way through the films of Alfred Hitchcock, ending up at his 1935 film version (the version the stage production gives the most nods to) of “The 39 Steps“. Then I thought I better read the book, written by John Buchan and published in 1915.
The stage production came to my attention through a piece in 40th edition of The Chap magazine, back in 2009, which was largely about the vintage mackintoshes worn in the production.
Nothing but good reviews seemed to follow and when one of my London contacts suggested visiting one of the Capital’s many theatres I sheepishly suggested that, “The comedy at The Criterion has had good reviews” (I didn’t want to sound to confident, just in case my friend didn’t like the production, but I needn’t have worried). The tag line of the Patrick Barlow production is “4 actors, 130 characters in 100 hilarious minutes“. The production is hilarious! What is effectively a chase thriller is reproduced on the stage, with only four people playing all the parts, with great energy and hilarity. I highly recommend it (although, I am not a regular visitor to London’s theatre land, so perhaps you shouldn’t plan your weekend theatre break on the basis of this paragraph). Whilst leaving, I passed a chap selling souvenirs (I can’t remember what the other souvenirs were), including the above mug. If you go to Piccadilly Circus while the show is still running you will see the same artwork that is on my mug, on a very large scale and on the front of The Criterion.