Thursday 23 December 2010

The 39 Steps - A Jolly Good Show!

For my birthday my lovely boyfriend (after much, hint dropping and reminding mind you) got us both tickets to see the amazing theatre production of The 39 StepsI read about the production on the wonderful Fleur's blog earlier this year, I decided as an avid fan of the classic 1935 Hitchcock thriller I would really love to see it for myself.

So what better excuse than a birthday, to put on my glad rags and catch the tube to London's West End for a Saturday matinee of theatrical vintage hilarity!

The 39 steps is running at the Criterion theater in Piccadilly Circus. When The Criterion was built in 1873 Piccadilly Circus didn't even exist!  The circus as we now know it actually developed around the theatre to reduce traffic congesting and the statue of Eros has moved several times - An interesting fact I learnt whilst researching the theatre's history, is that the statue we all refer to as Eros (officially titled the Angel of Christian Charity) actually depicts Anteros, the twin brother of Eros. Physically, he is similar to Eros in every way, but with long hair and butterfly wings, were Eros has birds wings!

During the blitz of WWII, the BBC commandeered the theatre to broadcast their light entertainment radio shows from, due to the whole theatre being underground which meant that it provided a safe haven from Hitler's bombs. Since its opening in 1874, the theatre has undergone many refurbishments and alterations thought retains its late 19th-century charm. The decor of the theatre is sublime you feel you are walking down into a time capsule as you descend the stairs to the foyer/bar area which is lined with splendid coloured Minton tiles (I am reliably informed) and mirrors.

The theatre itself is quite small but feels cozy and its size means you really do feel like part of the action  - and we were sat in the dress circle, and though quite far back and didn't feel left out!

If you are not familiar with the Hitchcock film it is loosely based on the espionage novel of the same name by John Buchan. The film stars a very dashing Robert Donat as Richard Hannay and the beautiful Madeleine Carroll as Pamela. The story revolves around our resourceful hero Hannay, who becomes caught up in an international spying conspiracy and is pursued by both foreign agents and the police across Britain (a fantastic review of the film can be found here). Essentially It is a spy story of epic proportions and considered to be a precursor to 'North By Northwest' which many call 'The American 39 Steps'


The stage adaptation is an affectionate pastiche of the original Hitchcock classic, the humour is slick, fast paced, and very much slapstick. So if you're looking for highbrow comedy then you are in for a disappointment. Played by a cast of just four actors, it is quite amazing how they managed to create all of 139 different characters needed - I did not count them myself, another reliable source!

The whole thing was truly hilarious, the timing was spot on, it is such a well-choreographed adaptation, it truly doesn't miss a beat. The other lovely thing is that you genuinely feel that the actors are enjoying the performance as much as the audience which makes the whole thing much more enjoyable! So if you love spy movies of old, and comedy so silly it brings out your inner eight year old, then I would heartily recommend catching it if you can!

Wendy x


  1. I have been wanting to see this for a while. It's going to be my pledge for 2011 to make sure I do things that are on my to do list! x

  2. What a fab present! I must see this :) Many Happy Returns upon you :)

  3. What a brilliant birthday present! This show is rather fab isn't it? I went to see it a few months ago, and absolutely loved it!
    And thanks for that wee bit of history behind the theatre and picadilly circus! xx