The 39 Steps

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 October, 2008, 12:00am

Lyric Theatre, APA

Reviewed: Oct 15

John Buchan's The Thirty-nine Steps, a spy novel about an ordinary man's attempt to save his country from war, has been subject to many screen and stage adaptations. This version, written by Patrick Barlow and directed by Maria Aitken, is based on the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock classic, with a farcical twist.

As in Hitchcock's thriller, protagonist Richard Hannay (Mark Pegler) meets a mysterious woman called Annabella (Helen Christinson) at a London music theatre who begs to be taken to his flat. There, she reveals her identity as a British spy seeking to prevent a man - with a missing finger on his right hand - from leaking vital military secrets to the Germans. Annabella says she must make contact with a professor in Scotland to stop the conspiracy, mentioning, for the first time, the '39 steps', without explaining their significance. When she is later stabbed to death, Hannay flees to Scotland to escape the assassins and because he is now a fugitive wanted for suspected murder.

The 39 Steps is full of twists and turns but what makes this play engaging is the first-rate acting and the many theatrics employed to turn this thriller into an entertaining action comedy.