The 39 Steps (play)

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The 39 Steps
39 steps.jpg
Written by Patrick Barlow
Date premiered 17 June 2005
Place premiered West Yorkshire Playhouse
Leeds
Original language English
Genre Comedy/parody
Setting 1930s England and Scotland
Official site

The 39 Steps is a melodrama adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. The original concept and production of a four-actor version of the story was by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon. Patrick Barlow rewrote this adaptation in 2005.[1]

The play's concept calls for the entirety of the 1935 adventure film The 39 Steps to be performed with a cast of only four. One actor plays the hero, Richard Hannay, an actress (or sometimes actor) plays the three women with whom he has romantic entanglements, and two other actors play every other character in the show: heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object. This often requires lightning fast quick-changes and occasionally for them to play multiple characters at once. Thus the film's serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the script is full of allusions to (and puns on the titles of) other Alfred Hitchcock films, including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest.

Production history[edit]

The first version of the play written by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon for a cast of four actors and funded by a £1,000 Yorkshire Arts Grant, premiered in 1995 before an audience of 90 people at the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, before embarking on a tour of village halls across the north of England.[2]

In 2005 Patrick Barlow rewrote the script, keeping the scenes, staging and small-scale feel,[2] and in June 2005 this re-adaption premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse,[3][4] directed by Fiona Buffini.[5] The featured actors were Robert Whitelock, Lisa Jackson, Simon Gregor and Mark Hadfield.[6] Maria Aitken directed the revised production in its London premiere at the Tricycle Theatre (London),[7] which opened on 10 August 2006 titled John Buchan's The 39 Steps.[8] The cast for the London premiere comprised Rupert Degas, Charles Edwards, Simon Gregor and Catherine McCormack. The production transferred to the Criterion Theatre in London's West End in September 2006.[9] On August 27, 2008 a Spanish production opened at Maravillas Theatre in Madrid directed by Eduardo Bazo and starring Gabino Diego, Jorge de Juan, Diego Molero and Patricia Conde (later replaced by Beatriz Rico).

United States premiere[edit]

The play had its U.S. premiere at the Boston University Theatre, by the Huntington Theatre Company, in Boston on September 19, 2007.[1][10] Billed as Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, it opened on Broadway in a Roundabout Theatre production at the American Airlines Theatre, with previews beginning January 4, 2008 and the official opening on January 15, 2008.[8] The initial run concluded on March 29, 2008, and transferred to the Cort Theatre on April 29, 2008 and then transferred to the Helen Hayes Theatre on January 21, 2009.[11] Aitken also directed the United States productions, and Edwards transferred to these productions as Richard Hannay, the only actor from the UK cast to do so. The other actors in the premiere US productions were Jennifer Ferrin, Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders. Edwards concluded his run on July 6, 2008, and Sam Robards took over the role of Richard Hannay.[12][13]

Jeffrey Kuhn and Francesca Faridany joined the cast on October 28, 2008.[14] In December 2008 it was announced that Sean Mahon would take over the role of Richard Hannay. The show had its final Broadway performance on 10 January 2010 after 771 performances, "the longest-running Broadway play in seven years" (according to the writer for Playbill.com).[15][16] The 39 Steps transferred to the off-Broadway venue New World Stages, reopening on 25 March 2010.[16]

Awards[edit]

The play won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2007 and the What's On Stage Award for Best Comedy 2007.

The 2008 Roundabout Broadway production won the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and Outstanding Lighting Design (Kevin Adams). It won two Tony Awards on June 15, 2008 for Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design. It was nominated for four other Tonys: Best Play, Best Direction of a Play (Maria Aitken), Best Scenic Design of a Play (Peter McKintosh) and Best Costume Design of a Play (Peter McKintosh).

Film references & production notes[edit]

The play shares the plot and characters with the film. However, the play is a more comic treatment of the story, in the style of Monty Python and Barlow's own National Theatre of Brent,[17] compared to the original and more serious film. The play incorporates references and use of music excerpts from other Hitchcock films. The cast of four actors portrays between 100 and 150 roles, including actors doubling parts within the same scene.[1][5][8] The quick, comic changes are reminiscent of Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep. The part of Richard Hannay is the only one where the actor does not double in another role in the play.

Roles[edit]

Role World Premiere Cast
17 June 2005
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
London Premiere Cast
10 August 2006
Tricycle Theatre, London
USA Premiere Cast
19 September 2007
Huntington Theatre Company, Boston
Madrid Premiere Cast
27 August 2008
Teatro Maravillas, Madrid
Paris Premiere Cast
10 October 2010
Théâtre La Bruyère, Paris
Richard Hannay Robert Whitelock Charles Edwards Jorge de Juan Christophe Laubion
Annabella Schmidt / Pamela / Margaret Lisa Jackson Catherine McCormack Jennifer Ferrin Patricia Conde Andrea Bescond
Clown / Man #1 Simon Gregor Cliff Saunders Gabino Diego Eric Metayer
Clown / Man #2 Mark Hadfield Rupert Degas Arnie Burton Diego Molero Jean-Philippe Beche

Productions[edit]

Apart from the transfers to London and Broadway, this lists only the first production in a country.

The 39 Steps currently on at the Criterion Theatre in the West End.

Current West End Cast[edit]

[18]

  • Richard Hannay - Ben Righton
  • Pamela/Annabella/Margaret - Ellie Beaven
  • Actor 3 - Greg Haiste
  • Actor 4 - Nick Holder

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards
Nominations
  • 2008 Tony Award for Best Play
  • 2008 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play (Maria Aitken)
  • 2008 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Play (Peter McKintosh)
  • 2008 Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Play (Peter McKintosh)
  • 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Sound Design (Mic Pool)
  • 2009 Molière France révélation Actress Andrea Bescond
  • 2009 Molière France Best Director Métayer Éric
  • 2009 Molière France Best adaptation Gerald Sibleyras

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Joel Brown (16 September 2007). "4 actors, 150 roles add up to 39 Steps". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Andrew (15 June 2008). "Thirty-nine steps to an unlikely theatrical triumph". The Independent. Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  3. ^ Kate Bassett (3 July 2005). "The 39 Steps, West Yorkshire, Playhouse, Leeds". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  4. ^ Sam Marlowe (18 August 2006). "The 39 Steps". The Times. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  5. ^ a b Jasper Rees (18 August 2007). "The 39 Steps from Leeds to Broadway". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  6. ^ Lynne Walker (11 July 2005). "The 39 Steps, West Yorkshire, Playhouse, Leeds". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  7. ^ Dominic Cavendish (18 August 2006). "Irreverent romp down the nostalgia track". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  8. ^ a b c Ben Brantley (16 January 2008). "Spies, Blonde and a Guy Go North by Northwest". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  9. ^ Brian Logan (23 September 2006). "The 39 Steps (Criterion, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  10. ^ Louise Kennedy (21 September 2007). "Hitch a ride". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth."The Chase Is Back On! 39 Steps Begins at Broadway's Helen Hayes", playbill.com, January 21, 2009
  12. ^ Robert Simonson (4 June 2008). "Charles in Charge". Playbill. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  13. ^ Kenneth Jones (4 June 2008). "Sam Robards Is the Next Pursued Man of Broadway's 39 Steps". Playbill. Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  14. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Broadway's 39 Steps Gets Two New Zanies Starting Oct. 28", playbill.com, October 28, 2008
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth.The Chase Ends! Broadway's 39 Steps Will Close in January 2010" playbill.com, September 21, 2009
  16. ^ a b BroadwayWorld.com, 21 January 2010
  17. ^ Paul Taylor (15 August 2006). "The 39 Steps, Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn, London". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  18. ^ http://www.love39steps.com/london/cast.php

External links[edit]