39 steps review from CLT

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The 39 Steps - Chorley Amateur Dramatic & Operatic Society

Chorley Little Theatre

Forget Kenneth More, Robert Donat, Robert Powell, Alfred Hitchcock et al. The 39 Steps will never be the same again after this whirlwind version by Patrick Barlow. No wonder it is still running in the West End after eight years.

This must have been a tremendously difficult play to put on with its numerous set changes and the timing involved to synchronise the music and sound effects with the non-stop action. Director, Sean Duxbury, and his backstage crew deserve medals for the way it came together with not one mistake or prompt and on the first night, too.

The use of a screen to portray various events, enlivened by Ian Robinson’s animations, worked brilliantly and how did Sandra Dickinson cope with all those costumes?

Garth Maunders was a perfect Richard Hannay, complete with Brylcreemed hair, cut glass accent and pencil moustache.

Laurel and Hardy could not have done better than Andrew Kidd and Matthew Routledge who played a bewildering number of roles (130 I am told, with as many costume changes), in one scene changing from female Scottish housekeeper to police inspector in the blink of an eye.

Sarah Burrill started off as seductive foreign spy, Annabella Schmidt, changed into downtrodden Scottish landlady, Margaret, and ended up as Pamela, a Mariilyn Monroe lookalike, handcuffed to Hannay in his bed.

The timing was spot on, except for deliberate mistakes like the phone ringing after it was answered which brought the biggest laughs of the night.

The music was carefully chosen to match the plot so we got ‘Coronation Scot’ for the train ride (shades of Paul Temple) and ‘Startime’, for the London Palladium scenes and bagpipes when over the border.

The plot stayed true to the Hitchcock film version, with Hannay chased across Scotland by both police and enemy spies, and ending up at a Mr Memory show.

The whole effect was like a stage production of The Goon Show. The action never stopped for a moment yet never descended into chaos. It was an exhilarating experience just sitting watching it.

The play runs until Saturday. Don’t miss it.

RON ELLIS