The 39 Steps

Weymouth Pavilion Theatre 19th – 21st April

John Buchan described his novel The 39 Steps as a shocker. By shocker he meant that improbable things happened in the story. In Weymouth Drama Club’s production of The 39 Steps unbelievable theatrical events happen on the Pavilion stage. The play is adapted from Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the novel by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon.

Hitchcock’s 1935 film version loosely adapts Buchan’s original story. Hitchcock sets it in the 1930s and in the highlands of Scotland as opposed to the country around Ayr, south of Glasgow in 1913. Hitchcock changed the ending, making it more dramatic. He added scenes that were not in the original story, such as Hannay’s escape from the police on the Forth Rail Bridge and the Mr Memory sequence.

The Weymouth Drama Club’s production of The 39 Steps is directed by Richard Lawson. Richard has directed a number of plays for the Drama Club including Communicating Doors and Twelfth Night. The professional production of The 39 Steps recently ran on the London stage for almost 10 years. The play retains its filmic quality, presenting some 34 scenes in about 100 minutes. The settings are minimal. The cast engage with the audience’s imagination bringing the scenes to life. As Shakespeare said, “think when we talk of horses, that you see them”. The play is a fast paced adventure, packed with dramatic moments, laughs and surprises.

The story follows the adventures of Richard Hannay, played by Tom Marsh, a bored and lonely bachelor, who finds little point in his life. When a seductive female secret agent, Annabella, played by Gemma Higgins, is found dead in his flat, Hannay is forced to go on the run, falsely accused of her murder.   To clear his name Hannay has to unmask the spy Annabella was tracking. Hannay is pursued by both the police and by enemy agents across the highlands of Scotland and has many death defying adventures. Few people believe in his innocence, even when he has identified the spy master. He eventually returns to London in a final attempt to clear his name, unmask the spies and perhaps win the girl.

Nine actors; Julie Barber, Lynn Cockerill, Sue Conway, Jacqui Martin, Paul Gorsuch, Peter Hutton, Aleks Pearson, Rob Tripp, and Aiden Watson play all of the author’s remaining estimated two hundred and fifty characters in the story.

The production includes live dramatic escapes from hurtling trains, a vertiginous jump from the Forth Rail Bridge, an acrobatic aeroplane chase, kidnap by a speeding car and amazing feats of memory in a London music hall.

The text of the play is one of the AQA GCSE drama texts for next year.

The play pays homage to the many films of Alfred Hitchcock with several overt and obscure references to the titles of his films. See how many you can identify when you come and see the pay.

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