As I sat in my seat waiting for the curtains to part, I was slightly nervous about what I’d signed up for. The 39 Steps, a farcical adaptation of Hitchcock’s thriller of the same name, had made me question whether the choice to join murder mystery and slapstick humour would only result in a complete mess on stage. Thankfully, I was proved wrong.
The play, which has a total of 139 characters, is executed very well by a cast of four. Three of the performers have multiple parts and character swaps throughout the whole performance but they adapt between their roles with ease. The story centres around Richard Hannay (Wilf Walsworth), an innocent man who is blamed for the murder of Lucie Mannheim. As Hannay tries to stop Professor Jordan (Ryan Footitt) sending information to foreign powers, he is helped by an unwilling assistant, Pamela (Jordan Mayers).
Although it takes a certain taste to enjoy the Monty Python-style humour, the play is very funny. The actors are not at all afraid to make fun of themselves and make the play all the better for it. There is something about the stripped back nature of the production and simple jokes that make the performance quite endearing to watch. Particular note must be made of Eleanor Wright’s spectacular performance. Wright has multiple roles and brilliantly executes each one with such energy and excitement. Her performance as the grumpy old Scottish man had the audience in utter hysterics.
As the play progresses, it does fall a bit flat. The second act does not quite match the level of the first, with scenes seeming to move slower and jokes executed with less liveliness.
Nevertheless, SUTCo’s performance of The 39 Steps makes for an immensely pleasurable watch. The performers deliver their jokes with such confidence and ease that it is impossible to leave without a grin on your face, having just seen a completely ridiculous but equally hilarious bit of theatre.
Photo credit: Dan West