Reviewed by Mary Bryan, 14 Sept 2011
This spoof of Buchan's story of intrigue is hilariously funny, superbly acted and staged.
The fast-paced, farcical production has Andrew Laing playing the debonair central character Richard Hannay with a James Bond like flair.
Renee Sheridan, Ricky Dey and Patrick Davies share 32 roles, each character so skilfully portrayed one has no problem in following the action. The play opens in London in 1914, war is looming and Hannay, a dashing British adventurer, is bored after returning to London from Africa. His only friend seems to be his disabled butler (Davies) whose contortions have the entire audience in fits of laughter.
Attending a vaudeville show Hannay is on stage when shots are fired. After leaving, he allows a freelance American spy, Scudder (Dey), to stay in his flat. Scudder warns him of a plot to assassinate the Greek premiere, which will plunge Britain into war. A few days later Hannay returns to his flat to find Scudder murdered. With Scudder's coded notebook and the police believing he is the murderer Hannay goes on the run by train to Scotland. From then on, the audience is treated to a series of extremely funny, comic events, which see Hannay, aided by the rest of the cast in various roles, out-wit police, villains, officials and others.
Along with Davies, Dey and Sheridan display superb comic timing and the ability to become another character in almost the flick of an eyelash. Sheridan's roles include being a young Cockney paperboy, the son of the dour Scot track worker and the child-like Lucy who knows where the Thirty-Nine steps are. Davies roles include being a track worker and hotel staff member, while Dey as well as being the American spy and his killer is the First Sea Lord. As a villain he is a menacing presence.
Sound, lighting and Daniel Williams' innovative set, which appears to be a wall of suitcases, add to the hilarity and sense of the unexpected.
If you want to laugh away the winter chill head to Centrepoint.
Reviewed by David Collins, 14 Sept 2011
Okay, here's the skinny: Richard Hannay is a well-to-do gentleman finding himself rather bored in London in 1914. Tensions might be high on the continent, but Hannay's daily life is anything but so. Driven to find distraction in the unlikeliest of places, he tries out the local theatre scene and attends a magic show. However, what begins as an evening of tricks and mesmerism is broken up when gunshots ring out. His interest piqued, Hannay is quickly caught up in the events that have him as both pursuer and pursued; from London to Scotland and back again to the edge of the River Thames, he struggles in the midst of an international conspiracy and to discover the relevance of the 39 steps.
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first. Daniel Williams's set - a wall of suitcases hiding an array of set and props - was fantastic, revealing compartment after compartment throughout until it might have resembled the tardis - albeit slightly flatter and in brown leather. Sound and light gave things the appearance of a suspenseful thriller, yet just over-heightened enough to affirm the show was closer in tone to Garth Marenghi's Darkplace than anywhere else.
Andrew Laing played a marvellous straight man in Hannay. That said, it really is impossible to play favourites with this cast. Ricky Dey, Patrick Davies and Renee Sheridan were all brilliant. So much so that any tension around the central mystery sort of falls away as you watch these four in entertaining scene (Scottish railway workers, Cockney night out at the theatre) after entertaining scene (Highland hotel shenanigans, suitcase car chases galore).
Hannay says at one point: "We never question what we expect to see". And while you definitely question the minds of people making the horrendous decision to cut Centrepoint's funding, what you can't question is the quality of another great production. Grand stuff.
Reviewed by Joan Ford, 15 Sept 2011
As soon as you sight the stage be prepared to be taken on a visual feast. A mountain of cleverly stacked multi-purpose suitcases will adapt under the genius of set designer Daniel Williams. The set design is strategic to the story. "I thought about the story and the journey that hero Richard Hannay undertakes and I wanted the audience to travel with him on the journey and that is why I chose suitcases", said Williams. From the moment the play starts it also becomes an aural feast. It will have you laughing out loud within minutes.
Andrew Laing takes the lead role of Hannay; he meticulously takes the audience through his mysterious and at times deadly journey. He has recently returned from Africa and is slightly bored but not for long. "I have found myself at the centre of an international conspiracy where the defence of the realm is at stake." Laing is everything Hannay should be, handsome, intelligent, debonair, a risk taker, basically an early James Bond without the gadgets! He only has a notebook with a secret code that he must unravel and save the country. What a hero!
Amazing what you can do with suitcases though, turning into sitting rooms, trays bedecked with sterling silver tea service, motor cars, hotel rooms, train carriages to name but a few. Laing had the biggest role only playing Hannay, but with over thirty other roles played by three other actors you will be in for an astonishing ride.
The beautiful Renee Sheridan moves effortlessly through her roles such as Doris, a little paper boy, the mysterious Mrs Julia Urquhart, young Angus, Lucy, a bi-plane, oh yes, she is multi-talented. Patrick Davies just delights the audience and had everyone laughing out loud with his contortions and quick change of his numerous roles, particularly the Scottish hotel staff.
Hannay comments early on "we never question what we expect to see," but be prepared to be bowled over by Ricky Dey. His multiple personalities and execution of each character must be seen to be believed as he convincingly moves from role to role. Ian Harman must be congratulated for his attention to the costumes that enhanced the many roles the three actors performed throught this fast paced and very entertaining comedy.
Reviewed by Vicki Waterhouse, 12 Sept 2011
Reviewed by John Ross, 12 Sept 2011
Reviewed by Richard Mays, 12 Sept 2011Click here to return to The 39 Steps