"Absolute joy of a show"
by Victoria Beighton for remotegoat on 30/04/08

Even though it won the Laurence Olivier award for Best New Comedy in 2007, I really hadn't heard much about The 39 Steps. Performed at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus; a relatively small, low-key theatre (capacity for 600 people only.) I went with my boyfriend and parents on a Saturday night. We paid 10 pounds a ticket and bought them easily over the phone from the theatre, on the day and even though we were sat up in the gods, because the Criterion isn't that big, it wasn't that high up and we still had a great view, regardless of the fact we were looking on (slightly) from the side. The box office operator told us our seats had restricted views. I personally didn't feel like we were at a disadvantage and if you begrudge paying the ridiculous prices being touted around at the moment, e.g 60 pounds to go and see Dirty Dancing (if we want more people to come to the theatre why do we out-price most people?), then I would encourage you to go for these seats.

The story is based on the Hitchcock movie of the same name which itself was based on the novel by John Buchan. Richard Hannay is on the run, wrongly accused of murder and we follow him on a roller coaster of a ride as he tries to find out the truth before the police find him. It's a terrific physical comedy with four actors playing all the 139 roles. The Acting was superb from all four, who possessed exquisite comic timing. The show runs full tilt for 100 minutes with a 20-minute interval.

The two clowns, Simon Gregor and Martyn Ellis who play most of the 139 roles between them, have a particularly hilarious slap-stick partnership. One of my favourite moments in the show, is when they are in detective guise, standing by a lamppost spying on Annabella and Hannay. I wont spoil the surprise by telling you what comedy technique they employ to have the audience in hysterics, lets just say it's pretty darn funny. The use of a white sheet and hand/shadow puppets later in the show is also pretty spectacular and a chase scene along the top of a moving train made of chairs sticks in my mind for its physical daring and imagination.

Each of the performers must be incredibly physically fit because they make their carefully timed routines and stunts look effortless. Josefina Gabrielle who plays all the female roles was spellbinding. Possibly because she's so attractive and she's female - it's a pleasant surprise when she is so funny. I know its prejudiced and sexist and its an awful thing to say (especially coming from a woman) but its possibly because there aren't enough comedies written with women in mind, so women don't get the opportunities (I myself am a funny woman who would like more chances to act in comedies) to show they are just as funny as men. Go and see it just for her. I can't believe she hasn't been snapped up by Hollywood yet. It's only a matter of time.

For its colour, imagination and wit the 39 Steps is an absolute joy of a show. A must-see

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