The 39 Steps

Theatre, West End
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The 39 Steps  (©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams)
1/3
©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams
The 39 Steps (©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams)
2/3
©Tristram Kenton / Cast Stephen Critchlow & Andy Williams
The 39 Steps  (Tristram Kenton)
3/3
Tristram Kenton

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.

Posted:

Event phone: 020 7839 8811
Event website: http://www.criterion-theatre.co.uk
To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:39
  • 4 star:16
  • 3 star:5
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|63
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Tastemaker

Without seeing the original film this was based on, I missed the nuances that others picked up on but it didn't take away my enjoyment.


Very funny and clever use of dramatic effect, minimalist styling and downright 'old  school' theatre tricks that have been lost in the modern era of storytelling.


A funny , quirky and enjoyable night out! Very well priced :)


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*


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Tastemaker

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!

#TOTastemaker


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 :)


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.


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.


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


A real great show- after only 7 years, I can honestly call this a British classic... fabulously acted with Hitchcock references galore! Set, acting, sound, lighting,props-all were flawless. An absolute must-see!


I can honestly say the show was great fun and brilliantly acted. Highly recommended.


The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves and this transmitted itself to the audience. Fun use of Hitchcock motifs in the script and props. Fast-paced, family friendly entertainment.


A very slick production. Not high-budget, but certainly not cheap. The group have obviously had time to hone every aspect to perfection. If you're looking for a tense thriller, this is not it. Instead you'll get a rapid-fire comedy, with quality acting, miming and inventive integration with minimal props. If you don't leave with a smile, you're probably a fun sponge.


I have so often been dissapointed when I've visited the theatre...but not this time. It was pure joy ..everything a theatre production should be and such fun.


Very entertaining, fast moving and quick witted. The characters excel and the timing is excellent. A serious story adapted with comic intervention serves up a theatrical treat.


i went with my daughter on the 3rd feb not really fancying it but i thoroughly enjoyed it! such talented actors,hard to believe there are only 4 of them! recommended..very good


I have been this evening. I suggest everyone to go it's really funny I enjoyed it a lot, and also "partial view" seats are not that bad (especially considering they are half price)


I had misgivings about this play but it was wonderful. The four actors wereso accomplished, very very funny, lots of wonderful comedy business and a truly lovely and fun experience. The Theatre is very beautiful, and don't worry about restricted access, the pillars are very narrow, at the back of the stalls you cannot see the boxes and some action goes on there but the inability to see the boxes will not spoil your enjoyment. A great show with plenty of laughs.

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