dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
It's Hitchcock at rapid speed
After a hugely successful run in the West End this irreverent homage to Alfred Hitchcock's classic suspense movie returns to Birmingham.
First created by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and then adapted by Patrick Barlow, The 39 Steps is a super-speedy version of the tale of subterfuge and spies with the entire story being portrayed by just four actors.
Richard Ede and Olivia Greene in The 39 Steps
It's all just a little bit zany as they hurtle their way around the stage, jumping off trains and bridges, racing through the wilds of Scotland and throwing themselves out of windows.
There's bucket-loads of suspension of disbelief needed on the part of the audience, who all go with it because it's such good fun. The show is clearly a nod to Hitchcock rather than The 39 Steps author John Buchan – indeed there are frequent references to many other Hitchcock classics to keep film buffs busy.
Much depends on the wry humour of the actors – not to mention their versatility. Richard Ede is the dashing hero Richard Hannay who quickly takes the audience into his confidence so we feel he's just one of us.
Olivia Greene takes on the role of the luckless Annabella whose murder kicks off the entire train of hapless events and Hannay's love interest Pamela who is shackled to the runaway murder suspect as they chase across Scotland.
Andrew Hodges and Rob Witcomb hold the action together, playing more than 100 roles between them including hotel proprietors, police officers, newspaper sellers and undercover agents. Some of these roles are straight but a good many are just plain silly – and the dafter they get, the more the duo seem to relish them.
Rob Witcomb and Andrew Hodges in The 39 Steps
Designed by Peter McKintosh, the set is hugely adaptable – add in a few suitcases and it doubles as a train, slot together a few chairs and a wheel and it becomes a car, roll in a door and an armchair and it becomes a mansion in Scotland.
The production may have been in the West End for nine years but it still feels fresh. Packed full of energy and charisma, it's an action adventure story on stage.
The 39 Steps plays Birmingham Repertory Theatre until March 5. Visit the Birmingham Repertory website for more information.