THE 39 STEPS
John Buchan adapted by Patrick Barlow
at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus
A cheeky false proscenium, in this bijou theatre, for the tiny boxes where the heroic Hannay gets the girl and saves the day.
Rufus Wright was the stiff-upper-lip, snobbery-with-violence protagonist, and the hundred or more other characters were played by Laura Rogers [most of the women, all of the love interest] and Sean Kearns and Dermot Canavan.
The original plot was present, and mostly correct, though it has to compete for space in this 90 minute romp with nods to Hitchcock, physical comedy routines and good wholesome fun. The genius of the show was that none of this was particularly complex, or difficult even, but it's done at breakneck pace with amazing confidence and chutzpah. There's wind, snow and fog, there's a lovely little train, there's a Tommy Cooper hat routine, the two-sided character, even the cliché four-chair car !
Good use of music too – for Hannay's romantic stirrings, Coronation Scot for the train, even the Palladium theme.
It's all very tongue-in-cheek, never afraid to poke fun at itself, and altogether a deliciously entertaining evening in the West End. And it's now in its fifth year, and this is the seventh quartet to take the Flying Scotsman over the Forth Bridge ...