The 39 Steps at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review

The 39 Steps at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review


Posted 2024-06-06 by Andy Colemanfollow

Tue 04 Jun 2024 - Sat 08 Jun 2024

I spy a creative and imaginative masterpiece at Birmingham’s Alexandra this week. You have until June 8 to see The 39 Steps at The Alex, and it’s well worth a viewing.

The award-winning comedy is based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 movie adaptation, rather than John Buchan’s 1915 novel, so the audience is treated to highlights from the film, including action on the Forth Bridge, a show at the London Palladium and an exotic German femme fatale. What makes the production stand out from the crowd is that all this is achieved by just four actors using minimum props.

Writer Patrick Barlow adds to the fun by inserting references to other Hitchcock classics – like Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window and Vertigo – and even the famous sideways silhouette of Hitchcock himself.

So, we have the well-known story of handsome hero Richard Hannay, (played on press night with panache and a stiff upper lip by understudy Jacob Daniels (pictured below), who is pursued across England and Scotland, accused of murder but attempting to foil a dastardly plot to steal state secrets.

It’s a great thriller – but this theatre version has added jokes and humour, mainly emanating from ‘Clown 1’ (Eugene McCoy) and ‘Clown 2’ (Maddie Rice). The duo (pictured below) work really hard as they make countless costume changes (some onstage) and adopt different accents to portray a wide variety of characters, from policemen to secret agents, Scottish guest house owners to West End performers. Eugene is particularly hilarious when he dresses as a woman, matched by Maddie who dons male attire to become, among things, a police officer, city gent and spy.

Let’s not forget the fourth actor, Safeena Ladha, who takes on three roles: the German femme fatale (pictured below), a lonely Scottish woman in an unhappy marriage, and Pamela, the eventual object of Hannay’s desire.

The use of props is also impressive, making the most of very little, but making us believe we are on a train from London to Scotland, on a Highland moor or in a Scottish stately home (while a party is swinging along!). There’s the bonus of a smoke machine and puppet silhouettes to move the action along.

The show is 20 years old and ran in London’s West End for nine years, but we can still appreciate its originality and inventiveness.

Rating: 4 out of 5

#theatre reviews
#performing arts
287735 - 2024-06-05 13:41:23


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