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‘The 39 Steps’

The 39 Steps as directed by Malcolm Hobbs was a joy to watch.  The staging was simple but extremely effective and I was glad that the decision had been made to stage it that way as it became obvious as the play progressed that in such a fast-paced play a cumbersome set would have been a distraction.

The backdrop showing both London and the Scottish Highlands was a refreshing idea.  Patrick Barlow’s script and the action on stage never left the audience in any doubt as to where the scenes were set.

The show was full of humour, wit and farcical performances.  The actors all showed great flexibility and energy.  I very much enjoyed Malcolm Hobbs’ attention to detail in the set, props and humorous touches, such as when one of the male characters came on carrying a relatively light dining chair while the female character struggled on with a heavy wing-backed chair!

I liked the first scene where the characters set the stage, completely ignoring the audience and then, one by one, they all realised the audience were there.  I felt this could have been made slightly more of but nevertheless it was a lovely idea which put the audience at ease.

The actors all excelled and there wasn’t a weak link.  They had an extraordinary amount to remember what with playing numerous different characters – sometimes within the same scene – and also doing all the scene changes themselves.  The scene changes were slick and there were even choreographed comedic moments during the scene changes which added an extra special dimension to the play.

I loved the fireplace – referred to as a “roaring fire”.  When Richard Hannay and Pamela did a double take at the fire which was in fact not “roaring”, Mrs McGarrigle turned around the prop to show a picture of a roaring fire!

The business with the window was hilarious!  So simple yet immensely effective.  The movable door within Professor Jordan’s house was extremely funny too.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to see a play where the scene changes and props made such an impact and enhanced the play so much.

Steve Leadbetter as Richard Hannay was energetic and charismatic.  His performance was consistent throughout and he had a good rapport with the other characters.

Sarah Brindley was excellent. As Annabella Schmidt she had a good air of mania and mystery!  I loved her performance as Pamela; her farcical facial expressions really reached out to the audience.  Her costumes and the bobbed wigs in particular were excellent.  The scene when she was handcuffed to Richard Hannay and trying to eat the sandwich was very funny – I would have liked both characters to have “hammed” it up even more (excuse the pun!).

Robin Langer gave solid performances throughout and showed versatility in playing each character so the audience were able to distinguish between characters.

Jonathan Field was Mr Memory, Crofter and others.  I enjoyed his performances immensely.  I feel that as Mr Memory there was room for him to exaggerate his pose even more when he was recalling the facts.  Loved his Scottish accent – well maintained!

Robin Langer and Jonathan Field as a comedy duo were excellent.  Their chemistry and timing was most enjoyable to watch.

I enjoyed Julie Field’s performances; in particular she was warm and welcoming as Mrs McGarrigle and I loved the moments when Richard Hannay and Pamela couldn’t understand what she was saying because her Scottish accent was so thick.

The 39 Steps was very enjoyable.  I felt that overall there were some character traits and effects that needed more embellishment.  It is often the case that the performer thinks what they are doing is completely over-dramatic, but it is diluted by the time is reaches the audience.  On the whole the effects and character traits conveyed well to the audience, but I wanted more!

During this production I was never in doubt as to which character each actor was playing.  I believe this was due to the attention to detail by Malcolm Hobbs and the versatility of the actors.  I enjoyed the comedic touches and the overall direction and performance were excellent.

Wheathampstead Dramatic Society


Review date: 16th May 2014

Memorial Hall, Wheathampstead

Director: Malcolm Hobbs


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