The 39 Steps

  • Theatre
  • West End
Critics' choice
1 Love It
©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams
©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams
Tristram Kenton
Criterion Theatre , Piccadilly Circus Monday October 5 2015 - Saturday October 31 2015
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Current cast features Andrew Alexander as Richard Hannay and Catherine Bailey as Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret. Other parts are played by Paul Bigley and Stephen Critchlow.

There's a wonderful '80s comedy sketch where one extremely effete doctor turns to another and declares, 'I learnt everything I know about women from the novels of John Buchan.' Though Buchan was aggressively heterosexual, his emphasis on a world where a chap's upper lip was as stiffly starched as his collar meant there was little room for ladies – pleasant creatures though they were – in his tales of intrigue.

When Hitchcock adapted Buchan's 'The 39 Steps', however, he introduced a love interest in a version which Buchan later conceded was better than his own. In this stage version, Patrick Barlow has continued the honourable tradition of mucking around with Buchan's original, keeping the love interest (now elegantly played by new cast member Rachel Pickup) and adding a whirligig of self-conscious theatrical effects in a production where four actors evoke everyone from lingerie salesmen to a housekeeper who screams like a steam-train.

Charles Edwards is Richard Hannay, a gentleman with irony in his soul, able to avert disaster with the merest twitch of a courteous eyebrow – until a mysterious female foreigner is stabbed in his apartment. His flight from London to the Highlands to trace her killer and evade arrest himself is depicted with DIY ingenuity through such props as hatstands which double up as Scotsmen, and three ladders which metamorphose ropily into the Forth Bridge.

The point's to spin the straw of theatrical mediocrity into gold standard comedy, and to watch clowns Rupert Degas and Simon Gregor playing four people at once in a flying frenzy of wigs and accents is one of many highlights. If Buchan had ever done anything as girlie as giggle, surely he would have done it here.

Venue name: Criterion Theatre
Address: 218-223 Piccadilly
Transport: Piccadilly Circus tube
Price: £12.50-£45. Runs 1hr 35mins

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:39
  • 4 star:16
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:3
1 person listening

A friend invited me randomly and I went to watch it without knowing what it was all about. The show was simply hilarious,  it's hard to believe that such a great show can be done by so few actors! Just goes to show how an intelligent script and great actors can go a long long way without all the expensive props /venues which other big productions would have. I certainly recommend it highly , and given the price you definitely get a lot for your money :)


Okay, if you totally 'dig' smart, witty and ingenious humour this is a must. I can't believe I only just went to go see this show! With it closing in September, I recommend any humour hungry human to hurry to the Criterion theatre and bag some tickets. A hillarious comedy stage adaptation of John Buchan's 1915 novel. Mr Hannnnnaaaaayyyy *Annabella Smith*



This show is closing in September after a run of 10 years. Take this opportunity to see it while it is still running. I saw it again in July this year and it still as funny as ever. The 4 actors play all the parts wonderfully, it is witty, moves along at a fast pace and I suspect you will find it difficult to get more laughs per pound anywhere in the west end.

I defy you to keep a stiff upper lip through this show!



Absolutely brilliant show... A must watch show.. Enjoyed every part of it...

Zoe EV

We loved the show! It reminded me to the old plays, with no technology and very little resources. Soooo funny =D

helo m

Hilarious !!!! From the first seconds to the end, even if English is not your mother tong ;)

Viviana J

I really loved it with my family. Actors are so talented and the show will not fail to make you laugh!! There should be more brilliant shows like this! 

Grace P

Absolutely brilliant. Went for a birthday treat and we were both laughing from start to finish. Would highly recommend to everyone and anyone. Already been telling all my friends that they have to go and see it. The Criterion is a lovely little theatre which leave you with the feeling of having a nice intimate evening out. It is a must!

jules031056 .

Poor. Comedy and something like the 39 Steps just don't go together. Try the Jeeves & Wooster instead, and you will be richly rewarded. 

Pamela S

Absolutely spiffing!The Criterion theatre and the 39 Steps Play complemented each other so much that you felt you were drawn into a bygone era.I went with my husband who normally doesn't visit the theatre and we were both impressed and overwhelmed with the delightful performance and theatre.We both felt the experience could be summed up with one word , 'charming'.The Criterion ice creams added to the experience ,I had strawberry,my husband had vanilla and we both felt we were on a day out in the heart of England.Spiffing,delightful,charming both the performance and the theatre.I would thoroughly recommend this as a night out not to be missed.

Richard Bance

We visited the comedy show on Tuesday 25 Feb., in celebration of my friends` 60th Birthday. What a funny, hilarious and well acted show. The energy of the cast is amazing and in a play which requires many different scenes, there was brilliant use of minimal props, which just helped to make the show more comedic. 5 stars from all of us.


Hilarious and very clever. We took our three teenage boys who really loved it! Great too for anyone studying drama.


Absolutely fantastic. I thought the 4 people played wonderfully well. I laughed most of the way through it. Would recommend this for a good night out.

Juliet Kavanagh

The cast was good, and the play was very amusing, but the storyline seemed to be quite thin, and although amusing, the play was not particularly memorable

Per Arne Tjäder

Excellent performance in the best of British traditions! Efficient adaptation of the novel and the idea of keeping the cast as tight as possible if wonderfully fullfilled and performed with brio. However, being an old dramaturg in a theatre, I missed the dénouement of the story, and I think that the house, when leaving the show, was a bit curious about what the 39 steps really meant.


It was very funny and easy to understand for me although English is not my first language. I had a great time and I would definitely recommend it to my friends.


I did enjoy the production and appreciated the skill and energy of the cast. There were some very witty bits and it galloped along but ... not very exciting or especially memorable.

Anthony Render

A very good play, well what I could see of it. The problem is the seating in the stalls. The seats are not tiered enough. There was a tall person in front of me and a tall person in front of him. I could never see more than 50% of the stage. I suggest anyone wanting to see The 39 Steps at The Criterion Theatre, they book seats in the front row of the dress circle.


A farcical stroke of genius, brilliantly executed from start to finish.


Being a fan of The National Theatre of Brent and The Reduced Shakespeare Company this was right up my street. Clever, funny, and moved along at quite a pace. The evening went too quickly.....and my daughter who had not read The 39 Steps followed the storyline. Brilliant show.


Très bonne pièce. Le jeu des 4 acteurs est brillant et très visuel, ils jouent plus de 100 roles en 90 minutes ! Pas d'effets spéciaux, tout est jeu sur scène. Pas besoin de tout comprendre pour apprécier la pièce, elle est donc accessible aux non anglophone. Côté rétro très accentué, pour les amateurs. Very good play. Brillant acting, very visual with more than 100 roles in 90 minutes ! No special effects, only acting on stage. No need to be English proficient to appreciate the show. A strong ´"rétro" atmosphere.


Really good show. Quirky, fun and clever use of minimal props and staging. Would recommend for family or couples night out.


Not from an english-speaking background, it was very understandable (despite the accents) and very well played! - not the case with all plays. Of course it has a 'vaudeville' taste to it that might not be everyone's cup but it's a really funny and the improvisation aspect brings a lot to it.


Very disappointing. Not funny, very amateur production and very poor effects. Although I did like the train! And the theatre is lovely.


Saw this a few years back. Its very good, comedy at its finest. You will appreciate all the work that has gone into this fine production.

Matt Roberts

We caught the matinee performance and we're totally blown away with the performance. If you want a great feel good show packed full of fun, laughter, top class acting &clever use of a theatre - this is one for you. With Christmas fast approaching I'd recommend getting a ticket. The ending is very fitting!

Chris Copeland

Really fun evening, beautiful theatre, nice 30's feel throughout. Didn't always appeal to my sense of humour, althogh that didn't detract from it. It was very cleverly done with such a small cast and some great performances throughout made it thoroughly enjoyable.

Seungkue Oh

It was amazing entertainment for us in the horrible raining day .It was so funny and I really enjoyed the cartoon style acting. . I highly recommend seeing this play for everyone . Thank you.

Deborah Hill

An excellent evening's entertainment . Fast moving , versatile actors and very funny . Would highly recommend seeing this play .


this was a good evening out, enjoyed the play thought the special effects actually made it. Very well thought out and directed. Did not have me laughing all night, but I did manage a few laughs!!


The show was excellent. Laughs throughout, great acting and relaxed vibe in the theatre. Would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good night out.


At the request of a friend visiting London, I hurriedly booked tickets to see this play on a Monday evening. The whole process from booking tickets (on the TimeOut website) to arriving at the venue for the show was so easy and hassle free. The theatre was so adorable and really comfortable. Our seats were great (especially given the fact that we bought discounted tickets at the last minute) with a good view of the stage. The play itself was very entertaining. The storyline, pace, attention to detail kept us engaged and laughing all the way through. Highly recommended.

Richard Howey Brown

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed this show. I'm hard to please at the theatre, pomposity puts me off, though I was grinning and laughing all the way through. Great story, well written for the stage, great acting.


I didn't know much about this play, but took my aunt , as it was such a good deal. It was amazing! So funny, great acting. I highly recommend! I am 35, my aunt is 71 and we both laughed our way through.

Gabriel Dizner

Actors, scenery, lighting, costumes, everything was perfect! The team has a very precise timing and you can tell that they really enjoy acting. Lots of laughing with every scene. We would surely recommend "The 39 stpe" to everoyne!


That was super funny. All 100 minuts with the teath out and a full smile. I will recommend it to everyone :)

Gordon Bell

Outstanding performance. Brilliantly performed by a cast of 4?? Really??? They were everywhere, and so professional. I was thoroughly entranced for the whole performance and would happily recommend this show to anyone..


I brought my Mum to see this show when she visited me in London last week. Having not seen the Hitchcock movie I was a little worried that we would be a bit 'lost' regarding the jokes. However it was a great night and we both enjoyed it immensly! I cannot recommend it enough - high energy and lots of laughs. It was a great night out for both of us


The beginning was nice. But you get the idea after an hour. Not enough progress


What an amazing night. As we sat down in the small but gorgeous theatre we weren't sure what to expect. A very good friend of mine was here from Australia unexpectedly so it was a last minute thing. The seats we had gave us a perfect view, the performers made amazing use of the space they had, and put on a show that left us smiling and giggling even once the show was finished. I would highly recommend this show to anyone!


A sharp and witty play! In a time where TV, film and internet are supplying the bulk of entertainment in 3D and reality shows, this theatrical production really proves theatre is alive and kicking. By stepping in and out of the medium itself, employing fast, ping-pong dialogues, witty references and sharp humour , and changing through tens of characters in 1.5 hours (boy, do the actors work a sweat in this one!) - this production made me laugh out loud and enjoy theatre at its best.

Pete Bishop

It takes a lot for me to laugh out loud, but the quality of the acting (and accents) along with some beautifully delivered old fashioned humour (how refreshing) had me in stitches. Equally impressive were the incredibly well used props and stage mechanics, full of energy and impressive timings. Being well into my mid-fifties, I'd of course seen the original several times but my 20 year old lad certainly hadn't and loved it despitenot knowing anything about the book or screenplay(s). A massive compliment to the actors (each covering multiple parts) and whole production team. A thorougly enjoyable evening complete with more than enough laugh therapy.


Absolutely brilliant! Excellent timing and so funny. Bought the tickets as a surprise for my husband and he so enjoyed the show. Would definitely go again.

Jack Musgrove

Outrageously funny with just the right amount of references to the original. Definitely a fun evening.

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