The 39 Steps approaches Jetty Theatre

FOUR actors, principally two of them, will put on a show of more than 100 characters in a stage spoof on Hitchcock’s 1935 film, The 39 Steps.

Frantic, ingenious costume-making and a receptive audience are both needed to make Seacrest Productions’ play, The 39 Steps, at Jetty Memorial Theatre the success it has proven on the West End.

“Four actors play dozens of roles, ranging anywhere from 100 to 150 – no-one has stopped to count them, except of course the costume creator,” director Amanda Scott said.

“Jelena Hollier (costumier) has been madly creating wardrobe items for some weeks. She, and she alone, knows just how many characters there are and she’s not telling.”

Beginning life as a 1915 novel by John Buchan, then Hitchcock’s film and winning an Olivier award for comedy as a West End play in 2007, The 39 Steps has become funnier in every evolution.

“Steeped in the tradition of the spy stories of its time, this classic ‘whodunit’ has been given a complete spoof renovation by UK playwright Patrick Barlow, which is worthy of the Monty Python crew,” Ms Scott said.

Set in Britain during the tense times leading up to the First World War, The 39 Steps mines the popular folklore of spy rings hidden in communities. Richard Hannay meets a stranger, who reveals a German murder plot to steal British war plans, and appeals for his help. In the book, the stranger is a man and in the Hitchcock film and play, a frightened damsel-in-distress – Annabella Smith.

When his informant is then murdered, Hannay is accused of murder and he decides to flee the authorities. During his farcical cross-country escape, now determined to uncover the spy ring, he struggles to find people to trust as he is now a wanted man.

A cryptic dying message of “the 39 steps”, a marked map of Scotland and a spy mastermind described as missing a finger are his only clues to the mystery.

“I just had one aim – to pay homage to the brilliance of the original London production, directed by Maria Aitkin, which has subsequently been produced world wide using the same formula, since its premiere in 2007,” Ms Scott said.

“It’s pure melodrama and audiences will delight at the inventiveness of this production.”

Giving credit to the four actors – Nathan Booth, Belinda Lemair, Michael Smith and Beck Vincent – she described their efforts as phenomenal in learning so many characters in only nine weeks of after-hours rehearsals – which would take six weeks of full-time rehearsals.

Pictured below are Beck Vincent and Nathan Booth – in two of their many guises as policemen, Belinda Lemair as one of the female characters, Pamela, and Michael Smith as Richard Hannay.

More at home performing and assisting with production – this is her directorial debut – she acknowledged the calibre of the actors playing these very demanding roles in making her job easier.

Fans of Hitchcock will delight in the references to many of the great man’s movies in the script, to which she has added some more – “some more subtle than others”. “I hope people will enjoy watching this as much as I have in bringing them to fruition.”

True melodramas are rare productions now and here a local theatre company is taking on one which has won accolades around the world for its comedic brilliance.

Sit back, suspend your disbelief as the small cast makes the inevitable appearance changes and enjoy this farcical drama.

The 39 Steps will open on Thursday, March 24, at Jetty Memorial Theatre, running Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm until April 2 with matinee performances at 2pm Saturday.

Tickets available from the Jetty Memorial Theatre box office on 6652 8088 or online at

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