Review / The funny ‘Steps’ to silliness

Theatre / “The 39 Steps”, Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan; directed by Jarrad West. At Theatre 3 to July 1. Reviewed by LEN POWER

Patrick Galen-Mules, as dashing Richard Hannay, finds a problem with the heroine played by Steph Roberts.

THE original West End production of “The 39 Steps” ran for nine  years. It took a serious story from a well-known 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie and performed it for laughs with a small cast playing all the roles.

This concept has since inspired or influenced similar successful shows such as “Brief Encounter” and “Peter and the Starcatcher”.

Jarrad West’s production for Canberra REP moves at a cracking pace and retains the cinematic feel of the show.

There are good imaginative moments and delightfully surreal touches along the way. Unfortunately, the cast members playing multiple roles have been directed to play constantly over the top, making the show seem desperate for laughs and therefore less funny than it should be.

The one actor who doesn’t play multiple roles, Patrick Galen-Mules, gives a very good performance as the central character, Richard Hannay. He captures the dashing character of an upper-class, cultured hero of the period very nicely.

Steph Roberts is appealing as the heroine in the bedroom scene with Richard Hannay and Helen McFarlane is very funny as the Scottish innkeeper’s wife.

Nelson Blattman works hard in multiple roles. He would have more credibility if his hair was cut to suit the period of the play.

Tim Sekuless has produced an excellent and witty sound design but the music underscoring is too loud and drowns out the dialogue. Michael Sparks’ set design works well and Fiona Leach has designed very good costumes.

Jarrad West says he strived for “pure, unadulterated silliness”. It’s there, but a bit more realistic playing would have added to the fun, too.

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