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Review: 39 Steps at Newcastle Theatre Royal

On The Run, With Plenty Of Laughs Along The Way

The 39 Steps
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 2nd July 2016

After 10 years on the West End, the Olivier Award-Winning Comedy’s finishes its UK tour in Newcastle this week.  The show is based on Alfred Hitchcocks classic 1935 movie and John Buchan’s1914 spy thriller The Thirty Nine Steps and was adapted for the stage by Patrick Barlow.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
Having said that, this show is very funny. A hard working cast of four, and an amazing crew behind the scenes, deliver a great performance of physical theatre. The laughs come through both the script and the absurdity of the situations. Director Maria Aitken has ensured that this is a slick production.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
Richard Ede plays the well-heeled charming young Richard Hannay who is on the stage for the bulk of the show. The show begins in Hannay’s flat and he describes how he is bored and in need of some adventure. He decides to head to the West End to see a show.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
The set is a stage within a stage, with a second arch and curtain, and this comes into its own as Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb appear as the compere and ‘Mr Memory’. These two play the bulk of the 100 or so characters over the 105 minute show.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
Hannay notices the remarkable Annabella Schmidt in the opposite box and is taken back when she gets out a gun and shoots. The pair shoot off back to his flat to take cover. Olivia Greene plays many of the female parts in this show though Annabella is quickly murdered by someone unknown to Hanney.  The solution is to go on the run rather than try to explain how he has a woman with a knife in her back in his flat. He heads, on the train, north to the Scottish Highlands. His escape isn’t helped by the quick publication of his identity and description in the newspapers.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
Clever combinations of designer Peter McKintosh’s set, Ian Scott’s lighting and Mic Pool’s sound design create the train, the hotels and all of the other situations. Use of a train set and shadows fill in on the action scenes.  The laughter from the audience was frequent and heart felt as the crazy story unfolded. Some of the gags come from the fact that there is a minimal number of props and cast.  What is clear is that the crew is working hard behind the scenes to pull off a flowing performance.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
Richard Ede and Olivia Greene are captivating as the fleeing couple. Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb get a good proportion of the laughs as they change characters , sometimes mid-scene.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
On a night when Englandwere kicked out of the Euro 16 football championships the best place to be was the Theatre Royal.  This is a feel-good play that had our family laughing throughout. Tight performances, great script and a fabulous sense of humour turn the Hitchcock classic into the Comic Strip Does The Adventures of Dick Barton.

Photo: Dan Tsantilis
This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

The 39 Steps appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 27th June – Saturday 2nd July 2016. Tickets are available from £14.50 (a booking fee of 95p - £1.95 will apply to most tickets) and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or book online at

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