The 39 Steps Review

The Barn, Cirencester – until 10 August 2019

Reviewed by Catherine Françoise


It’s always a pleasure to visit this wonderful theatre in Cirencester and this was no exception. Instantly engaging, slick, characterful, hilarious and accomplished. I enjoyed this production of Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps directed by Joseph O’Malley very much. This theatrical parody of Hitchcock’s iconic 1935 film was first seen in London at the Criterion Theatre in 2007 where it also won an Olivier. The stage and theatre, though small by West End standards, were much larger than the Barn. The ‘usual’ evolution of a show is for it to move to bigger theatres rather than the other way around but in fact the Barn’s decision to take a risk on producing on a (much) smaller stage works amazingly well.

If you enjoy slapstick and daftness, you’ll love this. Very much in the vein of comedic slapstick championed by Chaplin and Keaton to the current ‘Comedy…. Goes Wrong’… the small but perfectly formed cast of 4 between them play an eye-watering 139 characters brilliantly and very hilariously!

Max Hutchinson plays a perfect matinée idol hero Hannay: self-deprecating, suave, intelligent (though possibly not as intelligent as he thinks!), and determined to see through to the end, be that travelling the length and breadth of the country, not being distracted by attractive women, observing ‘clues’ and analysing possible crooks. All great fun and extremely well done.

Jonathan Bourne and Colin Elmer are a brilliant double act, playing most of the show’s other characters with a commendable bank of accents, physicality and much else! Tricia Adele-Turner plays three ‘Femme Fatales’ with great style.

The twists and turns of the story demand the use of many props, physical theatre (I enjoyed Bourne and Elmer playing trees, streams, grass, bridges and much else), impeccable comic timing and the 100% suspension of seriousness. It succeeds on every level and I hope that other theatres might take the production for a week or two as indeed Windsor Theatre Royal are doing from the 12th to the 17th August. This well meshed, confident cast deliver a tight, hilarious, play perfectly complemented by superb lighting, sound and staging. One for comedy buffs and also those who love nostalgia!

Cirencester is SO easy to get to and also a very lovely definitely location and place worth the time! They also have wonderful restaurant so you can really enjoy and appreciate this lovely theatre outside of London ~ HIGHLY Recommend!

Bravo ALL!